NJ family speaks out on loss of their daughter after she drank Panera's 'Charged Sips' drink

Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Panera dropping 'Charged Sips' drink amid wrongful death lawsuits
Michelle Charlesworth has the latest on the decision from Panera.

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- Panera Bread said it's discontinuing its Charged Sips drinks that were tied to at least two wrongful death lawsuits due to their high caffeine content.

Panera didn't say Tuesday whether the drinks were being discontinued because of the lawsuits or health concerns, and it wouldn't comment on the timeline for removing them from stores.

The St. Louis-based company introduced Charged Sips in the spring of 2022. The fruit-flavored beverages contain between 155 milligrams and 302 milligrams of caffeine. The typical cup of 8-ounce coffee contains 95 milligrams of caffeine, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, while a 16-ounce can of Monster Energy contains 160 milligrams.

For Panera, the drinks helped meet customers' growing demand for natural drinks with functional benefits, like boosting energy or immunity. Charged Sips contained caffeine derived from guarana, a plant extract often used in energy drinks, and green coffee extract.

But last October, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Panera by the family of Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student with a heart condition who died in September 2022 after drinking a Charged Lemonade.

Her parents, who live in New Jersey, asked questions for days before they figured out what they believe caused the sudden cardiac arrest.

"Her roommates told us she had a drink from Panera, a Charged Lemonade drink," her father Michael Katz said. "The reason why the roommate brought it up to us was that she had known about some of the dangers in these excessively caffeinated energy drinks."

They spoke to ABC's Nightline about the pain they have endured since losing their daughter.

"The pain is just so hard and so deep and it's not something you get better from...There's no healing, just acclamation," her mother Jill Katz said.

Last December, the family of a Florida man also filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Panera.

In that case, the family said David Brown, 46, suffered cardiac arrest and died on Oct. 9 after drinking three Charged Lemonades at his local Panera. Brown's family said Brown had high blood pressure and didn't drink energy drinks, but believed Charged Sips were safe because they weren't advertised as energy drinks.

The lawsuit said Brown had ordered at least seven Charged Lemonades over a two-week period before he died.

Many people don't realize that the tasty, colorful energy drinks can contain as much caffeine in it as four cups of coffee.

Nutritionist Marian Nestle said she wouldn't touch caffeine-filled energy drinks.

"You don't know how much caffeine is in that drink, you have no way of knowing, or maybe you do if you have a predisposition to the bad effects of caffeine," Nestle said.

Panera's online menu now includes the language, "Consume in moderation. Not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women."

It's not clear when that was added. In Panera's answer to the Katz family's lawsuit, the company denies any liability.

Panera said it will introduce new low-sugar and low-caffeine drinks after listening to customers' suggestions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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