Ivy League Student Dies After Drinking Panera’s High-Caffeine Lemonade
Tragedy struck as 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, Sarah Katz, lost her life after consuming Panera Bread’s “Charged Lemonade.” Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the beverage contained excessive caffeine, which exacerbated her underlying heart condition.
Katz suffered from long QT syndrome type 1, a cardiac disorder that can lead to erratic and rapid heart rhythms. Due to her medical condition, her doctors had advised her to avoid energy drinks, making her meticulous about the substances she consumed.
On September 10, 2022, Katz ordered a large “Charged Lemonade” from a Philadelphia Panera location as part of her meal. Unbeknownst to her, this seemingly innocent beverage contained a staggering 390 milligrams of caffeine—more than three times the amount found in a standard 12-ounce can of Red Bull.
The lawsuit asserts that Katz believed she was consuming a traditional lemonade or an electrolyte sports drink with a safe caffeine content. However, after consuming the beverage, she experienced a cardiac arrest while dining with friends at a restaurant in her apartment building.
The family’s complaint alleges that Panera Bread neglected to provide any warnings regarding the potential risks posed by the beverage. They assert that the company failed to communicate any potential effects on blood pressure, heart rate, or brain function.
Panera Bread had marketed the drink as “plant-based and clean,” containing “as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.” The beverage also included guarana extract, a stimulant, and the equivalent of nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar.
Furthermore, the Katz family’s complaint claims that Panera included the beverage as part of its “Sip Club,” a program urging customers to “drink unlimited Panera Charged Lemonade every day.”
A Panera spokesperson expressed condolences for Sarah Katz’s tragic passing, emphasizing their commitment to ingredient transparency and stating that they would swiftly investigate the matter. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, roughly equivalent to four or five cups of coffee. However, individual sensitivity to caffeine can vary, depending on factors like body weight, medications, and unique responses to the substance.