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The parents of a University of Pennsylvania student are suing Panera Bread for the death of their daughter late last year.
21-year-old Sarah Katz suffered two cardiac arrests after drinking Panera’s “Charged Lemonade” beverage.
The suit filed Monday in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas suggested that misleading labeling and the “in house” preparation of the Charged Lemonade led to Katz’s death.
Attorney Elizabeth Crawford said the goal of this lawsuit was to ensure that people who are sensitive to caffeine are aware that the Charged Lemonade is “in fact, an energy drink” and that the Katz family “don’t want that happening to someone else.”
Katz was diagnosed with long QT syndrome, also known as LQT1, at the age of five. The heart condition can cause fast and irregular heartbeats which can be life threatening, according to Mayo Clinic.
Health professionals often warn people who consume energy drinks of the dangerous side-effects, such as dehydration, irregular heartbeats, and heart failure.
“Energy drinks have been shown to adversely affect the heart’s rhythm in patients with long QT Syndrome, they should be avoided in long QT patients,” according to the lawsuit.
It accuses Panera of not advertising their Charged Lemonade, which contains sugars, caffeine, coffee extract, and guarana, as an “energy drink” — and instead marketed on its website as “Plant-based and Clean with as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.”
Crawford said it’s unclear how much Katz consumed prior to her death, however the lawsuit references one large size contains more caffeine than a 12-oz Red Bull and 16-oz Monster Energy Drink, combined.
It was the marketing and lack of proper labeling that the lawsuit suggested misled Katz to believe the beverage was “a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink,”.
Additionally, the suit cites the Charged Lemonade is mixed “in house,” meaning Panera employees were responsible for preparing the beverage — heightening the possibility that “its caffeine content is not controlled and, in turn, has an innate and dangerous potential to vary,” the lawsuit read.
Crawford told WHYY News that the Katz family’s biggest concern is getting Panera Bread to make changes to their lemonade, whether that means taking it off the menu or having adequate warnings.
In a statement, The St. Louis-based company said it was “saddened” to learn about Ms. Katz’s death.
“At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients,” the statement read. “We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”
“The focus is to save lives, and that’s what they think Sarah would have wanted as well to save lives.”