Panera says it will finally stop serving its Charged Lemonade following wrongful death lawsuits

The nationwide discontinuation comes after a “recent menu transformation,” per a Panera spokesperson

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published May 9, 2024 12:45PM (EDT)

Sign on facade at Panera Bread (Gado/Getty Images)
Sign on facade at Panera Bread (Gado/Getty Images)

Panera Bread is officially discontinuing its infamous Charged Lemonade months after the highly caffeinated beverage was tied to several wrongful death and negligence lawsuits. 

A spokesperson for the restaurant chain told NBC News Tuesday that the nationwide discontinuation of the Charged Lemonade comes after a “recent menu transformation.” 

“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,” the spokesperson said.

The beverage first sparked controversy in October after a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Panera by the family of Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student with Long QT Type 1 Syndrome, a heart condition. Katz died in September 2022 after drinking the Charged Lemonade; her parents claimed that Katz likely thought the beverage was safe to drink because Panera didn’t mention the beverage’s high caffeine content in its marketing.  

A second wrongful death and negligence lawsuit was filed in December by the family of Dennis Brown, a 46-year-old Florida man who had a chromosomal deficiency disorder and developmental delays and suffered from high blood pressure. Brown drank three of the Charged Lemonade at a local Panera on October 9 before suffering a fatal cardiac arrest while walking home, according to the suit.

A third and final lawsuit was filed in January by Lauren Skerritt, a 28-year-old Rhode Island woman, who claimed the beverage left her with “permanent cardiac injuries.”

Panera’s Charged Lemonade was advertised as “Plant-based and Clean with as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.” However, according to the New York Times, a large, 30-fluid-ounce Charged Lemonade contains a whopping 390 milligrams of caffeine, which is well over the amount in Panera’s Dark Roast coffee. A large size of the beverage also contains more caffeine than a 12-ounce Red Bull and a 16-ounce Monster Energy Drink combined. Panera has since updated the nutrition information of its Charged Lemonade to show how much caffeine is actually in the drink. Per Panera’s menu, a Blood Orange Charged Splash contains between 178 mg to 302 mg of caffeine (depending on size), a Strawberry Lemon Mint Charged Lemonade contains between 155 mg to 233 mg and a Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade contains between 158 mg to 237 mg. Each drink even includes a warning that says the drink should be used in “moderation” and is not recommended for “children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

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Following the wrongful death lawsuits, Panera expressed sympathy for both the Katz and Brown families. The company said in a statement that it felt the customers’ “unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products” and asserted that it stood “firmly by the safety of our products.” Panera did not comment on the third lawsuit.

Many have since questioned why Panera failed to promptly remove the drinks off their menu. Per a CNN report, if Panera had discontinued its Charged Lemonade in the wake of the lawsuits, then consumers would think the company was in fact guilty and admitting that the drinks were at fault. “It’s a cost-benefit analysis…the loss of reputational value will often outweigh anything that occurs in the courtroom,” crisis PR expert James Haggerty told the outlet.

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In recent months, Panera has seemingly avoided the controversy surrounding its Charged Lemonade by releasing a slew of eccentric — and often, viral — food-themed apparel. Panera previously made headlines with its twice sold-out BAGuette purse — a bright green, bread-shaped bag that was later resold on eBay for up to an astounding $3,290 — along with its “Swim Soups: the You Pick 2 Collection” swimwear. Last week, the company debuted an outlandish yet aptly named “Bread Hat” in anticipation of the Kentucky Derby. The hat, which featured a 3D-printed replica of a bread bowl adorned with colorful ostrich feathers, also came with a $100 Panera gift card.

Two unnamed Panera employees told NBC News that they received memos, one from a manager and another from a regional manager, saying the company would no longer be ordering ingredients to make Charged Lemonade. One of the memos said the Charged Lemonade would be replaced within two weeks.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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Caffeine Charged Lemonade Food News Panera Restaurant Chain Wrongful Death Lawsuits