Panera Bread sued after college student dies from drinking ‘charged lemonade’

Sarah Katz went into cardiac arrest hours after buying drink, which reportedly contains more caffeine than cans of Red Bull and Monster Energy combined

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Monday 23 October 2023 23:57 BST
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The family of an Ivy League student with a heart condition who died after drinking a “charged lemonade” caffeinated drink has sued Panera Bread.

Sarah Katz, 21, went into cardiac arrest hours after buying the drink, which contains more caffeine than cans of Red Bull and Monster Energy combined, the lawsuit states.

Lawyers for her parents say in court papers filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that Katz had a heart condition – long QT syndrome type 1 – and avoided energy drinks at the advice of doctors.

The suit states that the University of Pennsylvania junior bought the drink at a Panera Bread in Philadelphia on 10 September 2022.

It was “offered side-by-side with all of Panera’s non-caffeinated and/or less caffeinated drinks” and was advertised as a “plant-based and clean” drink that contained as much caffeine as the restaurant’s dark roast coffee, according to the wrongful death lawsuit.

But the complaint states that the drink actually has 390 milligrams of caffeine, more than in any dark roast coffee on the company’s menu.

The lawsuit also says that the drink contains guayana extract and the equivalent of nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar.

“I think everyone thinks lemonade is safe. And really, this isn’t lemonade at all. It’s an energy drink that has lemon flavor,” Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter, PC told NBC News. “It should have an adequate warning.”

The attorney said that the family wants to make people aware of the ingredients in the “charged lemonade.”

“That has become their most important thing, is making the public aware of these dangers to make sure that it doesn’t happen to someone else,” she said.

Katz’s friend and roommate told the news outlet that her friend would not have bought the drink if she actually realized what was in it.

“She was very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe,” Victoria Rose Conroy said. “I guarantee if Sarah had known how much caffeine this was, she never would have touched it with a 10-foot pole.”

Sarah Katz doing CPR training with Dr Vicki Vetter of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Sarah Katz doing CPR training with Dr Vicki Vetter of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (SADS Foundation)

A medical examiner determined that the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to long QT syndrome, reported the outlet.

The report states that she had no drugs in her system and does not make any mention of the drink as a factor in the death.

The Independent has reached out to Panera Bread for comment.

Katz studied international relations, health and society, and East Asian languages and cultures at Penn.

She had taught CPR in high schools and impoverished areas as a Rep Cap Ambassador for the American Heart Association.

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