Panera Bread Drops ‘Charged’ Drinks After Customer Deaths

Panera Bread has announced the discontinuation of its high-caffeine Charged Sips beverages, which have been linked to at least two wrongful death lawsuits. The company did not clarify whether the decision to cease production of these drinks was due to the legal issues or health concerns. The timeline for their removal from stores was also not disclosed.

The company, based in St. Louis, launched the Charged Sips line in the spring of 2022. These fruit-flavored drinks contained caffeine levels ranging from 155 to 302 milligrams. To put this into perspective, an 8-ounce cup of coffee typically contains 95 milligrams of caffeine, as per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A 16-ounce can of Monster Energy, on the other hand, contains 160 milligrams.

Panera introduced these drinks to cater to the increasing customer demand for natural beverages with functional benefits, such as energy or immunity boosts. The caffeine in Charged Sips was derived from guarana, a plant extract commonly used in energy drinks, and green coffee extract.

However, in October 2022, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the company by the family of Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student with a heart condition. Katz passed away in September 2022 after consuming a Charged Lemonade.

In December of the same year, another wrongful death and negligence lawsuit was filed against Panera by the family of a Florida man. The family claimed that David Brown, 46, experienced cardiac arrest and died after consuming three Charged Lemonades at his local Panera. Brown, who had high blood pressure, did not typically consume energy drinks. His family stated that he believed Charged Sips were safe as they were not marketed as energy drinks.

According to the lawsuit, Brown had purchased at least seven Charged Lemonades over a two-week period before his death. Panera’s online menu now includes a cautionary note: “Consume in moderation. Not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.” It remains unclear when this warning was added.

In the wake of these events, Panera has announced the introduction of new low-sugar and low-caffeine beverages, a decision influenced by customer feedback.