Panera Bread Retires Controversial Caffeinated Drink after Lawsuit Ties

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In a significant move, St. Louis-based Panera Bread has announced the discontinuation of Charged Sips, its range of highly caffeinated drinks, which had been implicated in at least two wrongful death lawsuits. This follows the company’s steadfast silence over whether the cessation was a response to the said lawsuits or health concerns linked to the drinks’ high caffeine content. Equally tight-lipped about the scale of removal from its outlets, Panera only committed to the introduction of new, customer-inspired beverage offerings with fewer sugars and less caffeine.

Launched in the spring of 2022, these fruit-infused beverages, known as Charged Sips, packed a significant caffeine punch, with quantities ranging from 155 to 302 milligrams. To put this into perspective, an average 8-ounce cup of coffee, as classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, contains just 95 milligrams of caffeine, while a 16-ounce Monster Energy can contains 160 milligrams.

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Achieving the desired charges in the Charged Sips was a combination of guarana, a plant extract common in energy drinks, and green coffee extract. The drinks were part of Panera’s strategy to address the burgeoning demand from its customers for natural beverages with auxiliary benefits such as energy or immunity boosts.

However, in October, tragedy struck. Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania with an existing heart condition, lost her life after consuming a Charged Lemonade. Her bereaved family promptly filed a wrongful death suit against Panera. A mere two months later, another family followed suit, blaming Panera’s drink for the cardiac arrest and the subsequent demise of 46-year-old David Brown.

David, who hailed from Florida, had savored two servings of Charged Lemonade on the fated day of October 9. His family claimed David suffered from high blood pressure but refrained from consuming energy drinks. However, he believed the Charged Sips posed no threat, given they were not promoted as energy drinks. During the two weeks leading up to his untimely demise, David had indulged in at least seven of Panera’s Charged Lemonades, outlined the family’s lawsuit against the company.

Taking note, Panera’s online menu has now become more transparent, warning its customers, “Consume in moderation. Not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.” The exact timeline of the insertion of this cautionary statement remains shrouded in mystery.