Popular fast-casual chain Panera Bread is issuing a new warning to its highly caffeinated charge lemonade beverage after a family filed a lawsuit alleging a 21-year-old relative died after drinking it.
Following the death and lawsuit, the eatery is now informing customers that the drinks contain “about as much caffeine as [Panera’s] Dark Roast Coffee” and is cautioning its customers to “use in moderation.” The company has also said that the beverage is “not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”
Panera “charged lemonade” comes in three flavors, which are all marketed as plant-based, “clean caffeine” instant energy drinks made from guarana and green coffee extract, ABC News reported.
The family of 21-year-old University of Penn student Sarah Katz filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Panera after she died from cardiac arrest after drinking the beverage. Katz was diagnosed with Congenital Long QT Syndrome Type 1 when she was five. The syndrome can result in potential life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms due to potassium ion channels in the heart not functioning properly and disrupting the heart’s electrical activity.
“We were saddened to learn last week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz. While our investigation is ongoing, out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages at our bakery cafes, on our website and on the Panera app,” a spokesperson for Panera told the outlet.
The lawsuit says Katz drank the highly caffeinated charged lemonade drink that was not properly advertised by the popular chain as an energy drink.
“She was very aware of her health,” Katz’s roommate and friend Victoria Conway told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB. “She was very vigilant to avoid caffeine. She never drank coffee.”
ABC News medical contributor Dr. Darien Sutton says that while generally lower doses of caffeine aren’t harmful, higher doses can start to have a negative effect on the body. “The FDA recommends that the average adult drinks no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day,” Sutton added.
That amount, 400 milligrams a day – roughly equal to four or five cups of coffee — is “not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects” for healthy adults, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, a “wide variation in both how sensitive people are to the effects of caffeine and how fast they metabolize it,” mainly for those with certain conditions and some medications, “can make people more sensitive to caffeine’s effects,” the agency said.