The FDA is investigating the death of a University of Pennsylvania student with a heart condition, who allegedly died after consuming a caffeinated beverage at Panera Bread.
According to a lawsuit, Sarah Katz, 21, assumed the Charged Lemonade was a regular lemonade or an electrolyte sports drink with a safe caffeine level. On Sept. 10, 2022, after drinking it, she experienced a cardiac arrest.
The FDA announced on Wednesday that it’s collecting details about the incident. The agency conveyed its condolences regarding the consumer’s death and emphasized its commitment to addressing concerns related to regulated products.
They shared, “The FDA is distressed over the demise of a consumer and consistently addresses concerns related to the products under its purview.” They also mentioned their collaboration with the Federal Trade Commission about marketing claims.
Katz had a known heart condition called Long QT Type 1 Syndrome since childhood. She always refrained from consuming energy or high-caffeine drinks that could negatively impact the heart rhythm for those with her condition. The lawsuit alleges Panera Bread did not sufficiently inform customers about the caffeine content in its Charged Lemonade. The drink is promoted as “plant-based and clean with caffeine equivalent to our dark roast coffee.”
The lawsuit points out that the Charged Lemonade does not clearly state its total caffeine content but only compares it to Panera’s Dark Roast coffee. This coffee lacks additional stimulants like sugar and guarana that the Charged Lemonade has. The suit argues the beverage is akin to a “hazardous energy drink.”
The legal claim against Panera Bread alleges that a single 30-ounce serving of their Charged Lemonade has up to 390 milligrams of caffeine, surpassing the total caffeine in a Red Bull and Monster Energy Drink combined, which totals around 274 milligrams.
The lawsuit further states that Panera presents this product as a juice drink placed alongside other non-caffeinated beverages.
In response to the lawsuit, a representative from Panera expressed their condolences about Sarah Katz’s death and stated, “At Panera, ingredient transparency is a core belief. We pledge to conduct a comprehensive review of this incident swiftly.”