Panera Bread’s ‘Charged Lemonade’ blamed in second lawsuit as alleged cause of death

Panera Bread Retail Location. Panera is a Chain of Fast Casual Restaurants

According to a new lawsuit, Panera Bread’s highly caffeinated ‘Charged Lemonade’ is now being blamed for a second death. The suit, which was filed in Delaware (where Panera is incorporated) alleges that 46-year-old Dennis Brown of Fleming Island, Florida, drank three Charged Lemonades from a local Panera on Oct. 9, and later suffered a fatal cardiac arrest on his way home. The suit, filed on behalf of Brown’s mother, sister and brother, says that Brown had an unspecified chromosomal deficiency disorder, a developmental delay and a mild intellectual disability but lived independently, and frequently ate at Panera after his shifts at a supermarket. According to  wrongful death lawsuit, due to hypertension (high blood pressure), Brown did not consume energy drinks. Brown had consumed Charged Lemonades in the days leading up to his death.

The new lawsuit comes less than two months after Panera was hit with a separate lawsuit regarding Sarah Katz, an Ivy League student with a heart condition who died in September 2022 after she drank a Charged Lemonade. That lawsuit called the beverage a “dangerous energy drink” and argued that Panera failed to appropriately warn consumers about its ingredients, which include the stimulant guarana extract. It is unclear whether Brown knew how much caffeine and other stimulants were in the drink, which at the time of his death was available in self-serve dispensers and “offered side-by-side with all of the store’s non-caffeinated and/or less caffeinated drinks.”

Panera has advertised its Charged Lemonade as “plant-based and Clean with as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.”  However, the 390 milligrams of caffeine in one large, 30-fluid-ounce Charged Lemonade contains more caffeine in total than any size of Panera’s dark roast coffee. One large Charged Lemonade contains more than the caffeine content of standard cans of Red Bull and Monster energy drinks combined, plus the equivalent of nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar, according to the lawsuits.

Panera said that it expressed “our deep sympathy for Mr. Brown’s family” but stood by its products safety: “Based on our investigation we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products. We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit. Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products.” Panera put more detailed disclosures in all of its restaurants after the first lawsuit and on its website warning customers to consume the Charged Lemonade in moderation, stating that ‘it is not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine or pregnant or nursing women.’

Editorial credit: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

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