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Panera announced on May 7 it is discontinuing its Charged Lemonade. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Panera is discontinuing its Charged Lemonade amid several ongoing lawsuits alleging that the drink’s dangers were not made sufficiently accessible to customers — including one by the family of former Penn student Sarah Katz, who alleged that she died after consuming it. 

Katz, a College junior at the time of her death in September 2022, 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. It alleges that Katz drank a 30-ounce Charged Lemonade — which contains 390 milligrams of caffeine and other stimulants — on the day of her death and went into cardiac arrest hours later.

Katz’s family filed the lawsuit in October 2023. Within a week, the Food and Drug Administration said that it was “gathering information” about Katz’s death. A Panera spokesperson also said that the company had enhanced its caffeine disclosures at their bakery-cafes as well as on the Panera website and app.

The language added to the Panera website at the time — which reads that the Charged Lemonade contains “about as much CAFFEINE as our Dark Roast Coffee” and states that the Charged Lemonade is not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, and pregnant or nursing women — remains visible online

In a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, a FDA spokesperson wrote that — while the agency does not comment on possible, pending, or ongoing investigations or litigation — the FDA has reached out to Panera about the sale of the product "and to ensure they understand their responsibility to ensure the safety of their products."

The spokesperson also cited the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which states that companies are responsible for ensuring that caffeine usage in their products is safe.

Panera did not respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg News reported that Panera plans to introduce new beverages within the next two weeks to replace the Charged Lemonades, and that stores were instructed to stop ordering the drinks. A Panera spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company will introduce a blueberry lavender lemonade, a pomegranate hibiscus tea, a citrus punch and a tropical green smoothie.

Elizabeth Crawford, the lawyer representing the Katz family, wrote to the DP praising Panera’s decision to discontinue the beverages.

“We strongly support Panera’s most recent decision to remove Charged Lemonade from its menu entirely; a decision we know will save lives,” Crawford wrote. “Though Panera's decision to pull this product will not revive Sarah Katz— it will help prevent future tragedies.” 

Katz’s family’s suit said that she became a member of Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club — which allows individuals to consume unlimited drinks — on Sept. 1, 2022. The Charged Lemonade was offered alongside Panera’s non-caffeinated and lightly-caffeinated drinks and was described as “plant-based and clean.” 

Crawford told the DP that Katz's family's lawsuit will continue, despite Panera's discontinuation of the drink. In December 2023, a judge rejected Panera's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

Two other plaintiffs — both of whom are also represented by Crawford — sued Panera on similar grounds to Katz’s family in the following months.

“We filed these lawsuits not only to obtain justice for our clients and their families, but to inform the public about Panera's dangerous energy drink,” Crawford added.