Panera adds new disclosures to 'Charged Lemonade' after lawsuit

(NewsNation) — After a family sued when their daughter with a heart condition died after drinking Panera Bread’s “Charged Lemonade,” the company said it will now display “enhanced” disclosures about the high levels of caffeine in the drink.

NBC News was the first to obtain and report on the lawsuit, which alleges Panera did not appropriately warn consumers about the ingredients in the Charged Lemonade.

Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old at the University of Pennsylvania with a heart condition, bought a Charged Lemonade from a Philadelphia Panera and went into cardiac arrest hours later. After being taken to the hospital, Katz went into cardiac arrest a second time, which is when she died.

Katz was diagnosed with Long QT Type 1 Syndrome, or LQT1, when she was five, the lawsuit says.

LQTs, according to the American Heart Association, are a “disorder of the heart’s electrical system, like other arrhythmias” that can cause abnormal heart rhythms in response to exercise or stress.

To manage her condition, the lawsuit, which was posted online on Fox News, says Katz abstained from energy drinks and highly caffeinated beverages and would drink “electrolyte drinks, like Gatorade.”

Her roommate and friend, Victoria Rose Conroy, told NBC that Katz was vigilant about keeping herself safe and would likely never have bought the lemonade if she knew just how much caffeine was in it.

A Panera large Charged Lemonade, the size Katz bought, can have 390 milligrams of caffeine — more than any size of the company’s dark roast coffees or a can of Red Bull and Monster Energy drink combined, per the complaint. FDA guidelines state a healthy adult should have no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. The agency notes certain conditions, as well as some medications, can make some more sensitive to caffeine, however.

In addition, Panera’s website says guarana extract, commonly used in energy drinks, is one of the lemonade’s ingredients as well.

Despite this, the lawsuit states, the Charged Lemonades were listed “side-by-side” with all of Panera’s non- or less-caffeinated drinks when Katz bought one.

“It was not advertised as an ‘energy drink,’ at the store,” the lawsuit, which includes photos of the display, states.

Now, though, Panera said in an exclusive statement to NBC News Saturday that all of its North American stores added “more detailed disclosures” about their Charged Lemonades.

“We were saddened to learn this week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz. While our investigation is ongoing, out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages at our bakery-cafes, on our website and on the Panera app,” a Panera spokesperson said to NBC.

New language on the website cautions consumers that the drink does contain caffeine, should be consumed in moderation and is not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.

Elizabeth Crawford, an attorney representing Katz’s family, said she’s happy Panera is “moving in a direction of making a change,” but she considers these “baby steps,” as the warning does not provide context for exactly how much caffeine is in the lemonade or that it contains an additional stimulant, according to NBC.

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