Panera Drops ‘Charged Lemonade’ After Death Suits

Panera Lemonade | Image by Panera
Panera Lemonade | Image by Panera

Panera Bread is dropping its Charged Lemonade from the menu after allegations that the popular highly-caffeinated beverage item led to the deaths of two individuals and caused cardiac issues in a third person who was hospitalized.

“We listened to more than 30,000 guests about what they wanted from Panera, and are focusing next on the broad array of beverages we know our guests desire — ranging from exciting, on-trend flavors, to low sugar and low-caffeine options,” a Panera Bread spokesperson said, per NBC News.

Charged Lemonades contain as much caffeine as three cups of coffee — 302 mg for the large size. A regular 8-ounce cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine. Panera initially added a health warning to the beverage after it became the subject of lawsuits, but the restaurant chain will now be dropping the product entirely.

The first lawsuit was filed in October 2023 by the family of Sarah Katz. Katz, who was 21 and had a pre-existing heart condition, died of cardiac arrest after consuming the caffeinated beverage. In December 2023, the family of Dennis Brown filed a second lawsuit. Brown, who was 46 and also had underlying health concerns, died after consuming three Charged Lemonades.

A third lawsuit was filed in January 2024 by Lauren Skerritt, a 28-year-old woman who was allegedly left with “permanent cardiac injuries” after consuming the beverage, per NBC News.

In a statement following the second lawsuit, Panera Bread has denied wrongdoing, claiming that Brown’s death was due to his underlying conditions, not the beverage. The company has expressed sympathy for the families of the two deceased individuals and for the condition that Skerritt is experiencing.

“This is exactly what we set out to do, to some extent, is to make sure that this poison is taken off the shelves,” Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at the Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter PC, representing the plaintiffs in the three lawsuits, told NBC. “Obviously, it won’t bring back Sarah, and it won’t bring back Dennis, and the life that Lauren used to have.”

Panera Bread has not stated when the change to the menu offering will take place. The company will continue to offer non-caffeinated lemonade products it markets as “plant-based,” and “clean.”

“Our enhanced beverage portfolio, including new Blueberry Lavender Lemonade, Pomegranate Hibiscus Tea, Citrus Punch and a Tropical Green Smoothie will reinforce our mission of delivering what our guests most want — amazing taste, quality ingredients and value,” Panera’s statement continued, as reported by Fox News.

Panera Bread had previously added warning labels to the Charged Lemonade beverages following the first lawsuit, a move Crawford described at the time as “baby steps.”

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Medicine, doses of caffeine between 50 mg and 300 mg generally have health benefits, while higher amounts can cause anxiety, sleeplessness, and increased heart rate.

“A large body of evidence suggests that consumption of caffeinated coffee does not increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancers,” an information page on the website reads. “In fact, consumption of 3 to 5 standard cups of coffee daily has been consistently associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.”

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