Panera Bread’s “charged lemonade” has been linked to the deaths of 21-year-old Sarah Katz and 46-year-old Dennis Brown on separate occasions due to the high levels of caffeine.
After consuming three servings of charged lemonade in a Fleming Island, Florida location of Panera Bread, Dennis Brown suffered from cardiac arrest while walking home on October 9th, 2023. Brown’s family claims that the high levels of caffeine in the lemonade are to blame for his death. Brown had been dealing with high blood pressure, a developmental delay, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a chromosomal disorder leading his family to believe that the caffeine triggered one of his health issues.
This event quickly reminded the public of the death of UPenn student Sarah Katz on September 10th, 2022. After drinking an unknown amount of charged lemonade, Katz suffered from cardiac arrest and would later experience a second one in a hospital. Similar to Dennis Brown, she had a preexisting health condition known as LQTS which causes fast, chaotic heartbeats. She was known for being very careful about it by taking medication and limiting her caffeine intake. Popular TikToker, Asher Lieberman, published a TikTok describing the dangers of the beverage and his friendship with Katz, saying, “She was very vigilant about it (her LQTS) at all times.”
The case makes notice of the misleading advertisements for the charged lemonade that states it is “plant-based and clean.” Following this, the Brown and Katz families, assert that having the beverage near non-caffeinated drinks gives the customers a justified misconception that the drink is normal lemonade.
According to his family’s lawsuit, Brown had been drinking the lemonade for six days, causing them to believe he was not aware of the caffeine levels. The lemonade typically contains 158-390 mg of caffeine, depending on size and flavor, but since the lemonade is mixed, “in-house” the coffee content is not controlled and can potentially be more harmful. The FDA has stated that the average healthy adult can drink 400 mg a day without negative effects. Dennis Brown consumed more than triple that amount and while the exact amount that Sarah Katz drank is unknown, she did have access to unlimited refills.
Panera has expressed its, “deep sympathy,” toward the death of Mr. Brown while still supporting, “his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products. We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit.” According to Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at the Kline & Specter law firm, “Panera has taken actions to decrease the caffeine in the product, they’ve put up additional warnings and they placed it behind the counter now so it’s not accessible to all.”
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