All Panera locations are now displaying increased warnings about their Charged Lemonade’s caffeine content after the Food and Drug Administration said that it was “gathering information” about the death of former Penn student Sarah Katz.
The family of Katz — a Penn student with a heart condition who died last September — filed a lawsuit against Panera last week, alleging that Katz died after consuming Panera’s Charged Lemonade. The lawsuit suggests that the dangers of Panera’s Charged Lemonade, which contains 390 milligrams of caffeine and other stimulants, were not made sufficiently available to customers.
On Oct. 25, two days after the Katz family’s complaint was filed, the FDA told NBC News that it was “gathering information” about the information surrounding Katz’s death.
"The FDA is saddened to hear of the passing of a consumer and as always, takes seriously reports of illness or injury from regulated products," an FDA spokesperson wrote in a statement to the DP. "The agency monitors the marketplace of FDA-regulated products and takes action when necessary."
Katz, a College junior at the time of her death, suffered from a heart condition called long QT syndrome type 1, and avoided energy drinks at the recommendation of her doctors. According to the lawsuit, Katz consumed a 30-ounce Charged Lemonade on the day of her death and went into cardiac arrest hours later.
Elizabeth Crawford, the lawyer representing the Katz family, previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the family’s goal is to raise awareness of the drink’s contents, stop Panera from selling it, and urge the FDA to regulate its contents.
“The Katz family is pleased to hear that the FDA is investigating the situation and are hopeful that they will determine that this super energy drink is dangerous for consumption and begin to regulate energy drinks in the United States for the first time in order to save lives,” Crawford wrote to the DP.
A Panera spokesperson told NBC News this weekend that while Panera is undergoing an investigation into Katz’s death, they “have enhanced [their] existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages at [their] bakery-cafes, on [their] website and on the Panera app.”
“The Katz family knows this change will not bring back their daughter, but it would save future lives,” Crawford wrote.
The new language, which is available on the Panera website, reads that the Charged Lemonade contains “about as much CAFFEINE as our Dark Roast Coffee,” in contrast to the previous description of “as much caffeine as our dark roast coffee.” It also states that the Charged Lemonade is not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, and pregnant or nursing women.
Crawford stated that, while Panera placing a warning sign on their Charged Lemonade is “a start,” the warnings fall short due to the nature of the Charged Lemonade itself.
The lawsuit said that Katz became a Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club member — which allows individuals to consume unlimited drinks — on Sept. 1, 2022, shortly before her passing.
The filing described the Charged Lemonade as a “dangerous energy drink,” as it contains the equivalent amount of caffeine as more than three Red Bulls, which is only ten milligrams below the recommended daily dose of 400 milligrams for healthy individuals.
Crawford told the DP that the drink should be placed behind the counter and not permitted to be mixed by in-house employees.
“Panera’s warning to drink in moderation is an impossibility to follow given the potency of the drink, the size of the drinks they sell, and the fact it is part of the Unlimited Sip Club,” Crawford wrote. “In order to follow their warning of moderation, they either need to sell a much smaller cup or advise customers to limit the filling of their drink.”