Wrongful Death Lawsuits Halt Panera’s Controversial Caffeine Drinks

The cafe chain is discontinuing its caffeinated lemonade brand after a number of legal disputes.

End of Charged Sips

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Fast casual favorite Panera Bread has announced its plans to phase out a line of controversial drinks known as Charged Sips after they were linked to two wrongful death lawsuits.

Not Addressing the Issue?

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The plan was announced in a company statement on Tuesday, however, it did not name any lawsuits or safety concerns as the cause for discontinuing the beverages. 

Lawsuits and Health Speculations

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Panera first started selling the Charged Sips, a line of caffeine-packed lemonade, back in 2022. Since then the drinks have become the subject of multiple lawsuits in the US, and people have speculated about the health risks associated with the drinks ever since.

More Than Recommended

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According to the Panera official website each Charged Sips lemonade contains 155 to 302 milligrams, with health experts recommending no more than 400 milligrams a day for the average person. 

Equivalent to 3 Coffees

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A single Charged Sips beverage that contains 300 milligrams of caffeine is equivalent to approximately three 8-ounce cups of coffee. 

First Lawsuit

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In October 2023 a lawsuit was filed against Panera over the death of a 21-year-old student, Sarah Katz, who died of cardiac arrest in September. Her family alleged the death was caused by a Charged Lemonade.

Claims They Are “Unreasonably Dangerous”

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Katz’s parents described the Panera Charged Lemonade as “unreasonably dangerous,” due to the high amounts of sugar and caffeine, and accused the company of doing nothing to warn their customers about its contents. 

A Tragic Passing

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The 21-year-old Ivy League student actively avoided energy drinks due to a life-threatening heart condition. The suit filed by her parents claimed that she did not know that the Charged Lemonade contained high amounts of caffeine.

“Panera Should Have Known”

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“Defendants [Panera] knew or should have known that the Panera Charged Lemonade, as designed and formulated, once consumed, could injure children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people sensitive to caffeine — including those with underlying heart problems — by causing catastrophic injuries and/or death,” the lawsuit claimed.

Second Case Arises

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Just two months after the case, in December, another wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Panera over the cardiac arrest of 46-year-old Florida man David Brown.

A Dangerous Combination

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David Brown’s family claimed the death was directly caused by these caffeinated lemonades, as Brown had high blood pressure and allegedly drank three Charged Lemonades in one sitting prior to his heart attack. 

Seven Beverages in Two Weeks

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What’s more, the specific lawsuit claimed Brown imbibed a minimum of seven Charged Lemonades in the two weeks leading up to his death. 

Panera Maintains Innocence

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So far Panera has maintained its innocence pertaining to the two lawsuits, describing its drinks as completely safe for consumption. However, it has recently added warnings to its online menu.

New Warning on Online Menu

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The descriptions for their blood orange, strawberry lemon mint, and mango yuzu citrus Charged Sips now warn consumers to “Consume in moderation. Not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

No Specific Timeline Yet

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The company has not given a specific date for when their Charged Sips line will be removed from menus, but they did introduce a new line of beverages that will replace them. 

New Drinks to Replace Them

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These newly introduced products would include blueberry lavender lemonade, pomegranate hibiscus tea, citrus punch, and tropical green smoothies. These drinks will be part of Panera’s new focus on “low-sugar and low-caffeine options.”

“Excited to Continue”

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“We are excited to continue the success of our recent menu transformation, which began with our core options of sandwiches and salads,” their company statement read.

Sold Behind the Counter

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Until they are officially phased out, Caffeinated Sips beverages will be sold behind the counter in all Panera cafes. Prior to this, the drinks were available at the front of the stores for customers to more easily access.

Meeting Demand for Natural Energy Drinks

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Panera claimed that the 2022 Charged Sips lineup was created to fulfill a growing demand for energy-boosting drinks made from natural ingredients, as the drinks contain caffeine derived from guarana and green coffee extract. 

Capitalizing the Market

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But it seemed clear that the beverages were created to address the energy drink in general. Energy drinks make up a $21 million market that is growing year by year, and Charged Sips contain more caffeine than some energy drinks that use non-natural ingredients. 

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