Panera will phase out its problematic Charged Lemonade drinks in 'menu transformation'

Three separate lawsuits allege Panera misrepresented the beverage and its ingredients, particularly the caffeine content.
Panera Charged Lemonades.jpeg
Posted at 11:15 AM, May 07, 2024

Panera Bread will begin phasing out its controversial Charged Lemonade as part of its ongoing menu transformation, a company spokesperson said Tuesday.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the cafe chain over the highly caffeinated beverage, including two claiming wrongful death.

The separate cases allege Panera misrepresented the beverage and its ingredients, particularly the caffeine content. The lawsuits claim one customer was left with permanent heart damage and two others died from cardiac arrests — noting both had preexisting conditions that would typically keep them from drinking large amounts of caffeine.

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According to its nutrition facts, Panera's Charged Lemonade contains anywhere from 155 to 302 milligrams of caffeine depending on the flavor and size. For comparison, a 16-ounce coffee from the cafe contains 181 milligrams of caffeine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said a healthy adult can typically consume 400 milligrams of caffeine per day without any dangerous effects, but it can vary from person to person.

Panera added a warning label on its website for its Charged Lemonades in October 2023 following the first wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of 21-year-old Sarah Katz, a woman with a heart condition who reportedly died after drinking the lemonade in 2022. The newly added warnings clearly state the drink contains caffeine, should only be consumed in moderation and is “not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

A second wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Panera in December 2023 on behalf of 46-year-old Dennis Brown, who reportedly died from cardiac arrest after getting three refills of the lemonade at a Panera location in Florida, thereby ingesting at least 780 milligrams of caffeine. Brown had high blood pressure, the lawsuit said.

In both cases, Panera issued statements to NBC News, who first reported on the lawsuits, expressing sympathy for the families.

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Now the company is headed in a new direction, calling a recent menu overhaul its “new era.”

“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 spokesperson said Tuesday. “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 want most — amazing taste, quality ingredients and value.”

Panera announced the menu changes in a press release on its website on April 16, stating it is the company’s “largest menu transformation ever.”