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Panera Charged Lemonade Lawsuit Cites Permanent Cardiac Injury

Posted in Food Safety on February 2, 2024

A third legal complaint has been filed against Panera Bread in response to the health effects of their Charged Lemonades. However, this case is a bit different from the previous two. The current suit involves a young, previously healthy individual with “no underlying medical conditions” that developed “permanent cardiac injuries” following consumption of the bakery chain’s Charged Lemonades.

Cardiac Injury with No Underlying Medical Conditions

According to the suit, a 28-year-old occupational therapist and athlete consumed two and a half Charged Lemonades from a Greenville, Rhode Island Panera Bread restaurant on April 8. Shortly after, she began experiencing several episodes of heart palpitations. As she indicated that she has never experienced these symptoms before, she decided to go to the hospital.

While at the hospital, her symptoms increased with a syncopal episode (sudden drop in blood pressure that often causes fainting). She was moved to the critical care unit to monitor her heart rate, which was up in the 180s to 190s. To put that into perspective, a normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). An athlete with a stronger heart may have a normal heart rate of closer to 40 bpm.

She was a soccer player, worked out regularly, and often competed in obstacle courses and has no record of previous health conditions that may cause these problems (e.g., caffeine allergy or sensitivity).

Additional symptoms prompted her to revisit the hospital on Aug. 30. There she was treated for early onset atrial fibrillation (also known as an irregular heartbeat or heart murmur). According to reports, testing showed no evidence of underlying structural heart disease that often precedes this diagnosis.

Months after consuming the beverage, her life has been permanently altered. According to the suit, she alleges that she can no longer exercise, socialize or work in the same capacity and continues to experience shortness of breath, palpitations, brain fog, difficulty thinking and concentrating, body shakes, and weakness. She now takes daily medication to regulate her heart rate and rhythm.

Previous Lawsuits

This is the third case so far against the restaurant chain.

A 21-year-old college student with a heart condition, died in September 2022 after drinking the Charged Lemonade. Her parents allege that the she may have misunderstood that the lemonade was caffeinated, as she has successfully managed her Long QT syndrome and avoided caffeinated products due to her sensitivity. Per the medical examiner’s report, her cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to Long QT syndrome.

A 46 year old man with an unspecified chromosomal deficiency disorder died on October 9, 2023 after consuming three cups of Panera’s Charged Lemonade. He was found dead after he left the restaurant walking home. His cause of death was cited as cardiac arrest due to hypertensive disease.

Panera Responds by Regulating Access and Modifying Recipe

Since the complaints have been filed, some Panera locations have begun regulating access to the highly caffeinated beverage, placed warning signs, and appears to have modified their recipe.

Signs on the Charged Lemonade dispenser now warn, “Contains CAFFEINE – Consume in Moderation. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

Certain locations have moved the dispensers behind the counter, requiring an employee to fill and refill the beverage, while others have opted to discontinue selling the beverage altogether.

Some data indicates that the chain has modified their recipe to reduce the amount of caffeine compared to its original formula. According to the restaurant’s website, A regular size of the Charged Lemonade drink contains 260 milligrams of caffeine, while a large has 390 milligrams. It is advertised as containing “as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.”

How Much Caffeine is Too Much Caffeine

Exactly how much caffeine is too much caffeine? The answer to this question is not completely straightforward. In an Italian scientific publication on the “impact of caffeine on atrial fibrillation,” compiled data from several clinical and observational studies.

Excess caffeine consumption is often associated with cardiac arrhythmias, affected heart rate variability, and increased cardiovascular risk. According to the paper, “moderate intake of caffeine” seems to have a positive effect on heart arrhythmias, however “high intake of caffeine” appears to be associated with increased risk of cardiac issues such as atrial fibrillation.

So where does that line fall?

Unfortunately, it varies from person to person, with factors such as body weight, individual sensitivity, or medications you may take. A whole slew of variables determine that threshold.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), healthy adults can generally consume around 400 milligrams of caffeine a day without negative effects. That amounts to about four or five cups of coffee throughout the day.

Certain conditions may increase a person’s sensitivity to caffeine. Additionally, those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, breastfeeding, or are concerned about contraindications of medication or other health conditions should talk to their health care provider about whether or not there is a need to limit caffeine consumption.

As there is no set level of caffeine set for children, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants by children and adolescents.

Sources of Caffeine

Commonly consumed beverages often contain about the same amount of caffeine within their category. In some cases, caffeine is a naturally occurring aspect of the beverage (i.e., tea and coffee), while others are added.

Individual items and brands may vary, but the following caffeine contents are often as follows:

  • 12-ounce can, caffeinated soft drink: 30 to 40 milligrams
  • 8-ounce cup, green or black tea: 30 to 50 milligrams
  • 8-ounce cup, coffee: 80 to 100 milligrams
  • 8-ounce container, energy drink: 40 to 250 milligrams

Depending on the flavor choice, according to Panera’s website, a regular sized Charged Lemonade could have between 124 and 236 milligrams of caffeine, while the large has up to 390 milligrams. The drink is advertised as containing “as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee,” which the website claims has 214 milligrams of caffeine.

What Happens If You Consume Too Much Caffeine?

According to the FDA, certain acute symptoms may occur if you over consume caffeine, which they describe as consuming “more caffeine than you can tolerate.”

Common side effects include:

  • Insomnia
  • Jitters
  • Anxiousness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Feelings of unhappiness (dysphoria)

Certain toxic effects, such as seizures or heart issues can be observed with rapid consumption of around 1,200 milligrams of caffeine. That is 3 Large Panera Charged Lemonades in a short period of time.

Have You Been Affected by Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade?

Have you or a loved one been adversely affected after consuming Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade? You may have a case. The Lange Law Firm, PLLC specializes in cases involving food related lawsuits. Our mission is to use the law to hold accountable those responsible for food related illnesses and deaths.

Contact The Lange Law Firm by phone at (833) 330-3663 or click here to send an email.

By: Heather Van Tassell