July 19, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Panera Bread faces two wrongful death lawsuits related to its caffeinated Charged Lemonades.
  • These drinks contain as much as 237mg of caffeine and are available for free refills.
  • Panera denies the allegations that the deaths were caused by these beverages.

Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade is steeped in controversy after lawsuits linking the beverage to two deaths. The most recent lawsuit alleged that a Florida man died from cardiac arrest after drinking three Charged Lemonades.

The drink is highly caffeinated. A large 30-ounce Charged Lemonade with ice contains 237 milligrams of caffeine, although Panera previously listed the same drink as having 390 mg of caffeine.

Adults can safely consume 400 mg of caffeine each day, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“It’s actually quite a bit more than you would think. That’s like four or five 8-ounce cups of coffee a day,” Allison Childress, PhD, RDN, a registered clinical dietitian and associate professor of nutrition sciences at Texas Tech University, told Verywell.

Moderate consumption of caffeine can make people feel more alert. Some research has also linked caffeine to a reduced risk of depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Childress said the problem comes when someone is “stacking” caffeine throughout the day, which might put them close to the toxic threshold of 1,200 mg. Having too much caffeine can lead to heart palpitations, anxiety, agitation, high blood pressure, or seizures.

“People don’t realize that they’ve had two cups of coffee that morning, had a soda at lunch, then they get this lemonade in the afternoon, and now we’re at 5-, 6-, 700 milligrams of caffeine,” she said.

How Does Panera’s Charged Lemonade Compare to Other Drinks?

Panera’s regular 20-ounce Strawberry Lemon Mint Charged Lemonade has 158 mg of caffeine, which is more than a Red Bull and about the same amount as a Monster Energy drink. But this isn’t the most caffeinated beverage on the market.

For instance, Panera’s 20-ounce dark roast coffee has 268 mg of caffeine, while a 20-ounce Starbucks Blonde Roast brewed coffee has 475 mg.

The speed at which someone consumes these drinks matters, according to Childress.

“Typically you’re going to drink a cold lemonade with a meal faster than you might sip a cup of coffee, so you can consume a larger amount of caffeine in a shorter period of time,” she said.

The sweetened Charged Lemonade varieties contain more calories and sugar than black coffee. The 20-ounce Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade has 50 grams of sugar and 210 calories, while the 20-ounce Starbucks black coffee has no sugar and 5 calories.

Men should not consume more than 36 g of sugar and women should not exceed 25 g a day, according to American Heart Association.

“We have to look at that metabolically as well. That can cause issues with insulin resistance, weight gain, and inflammation,” Childress said.

Is Panera’s Charged Lemonade Actually Dangerous?

Panera first introduced Charged Lemonades last spring, and some social media users quickly shared videos warning followers about the drink’s caffeine content.

“I don’t drink coffee, I’m not used to caffeine like that, and I feel like the Hulk,” TikTok user @sarahebaus said in the video that has more than 1.4 million views.

A Panera spokesperson denied the allegations that the two recent deaths were caused by the company’s lemonades. “Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products,” the spokesperson said.

The Panera website currently states that the Charged Lemonades are not recommended for “children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

There are some reports that the beverage dispensers have been moved behind the counter, but the drinks are still included in Panera’s “Unlimited Sip Club,” which gives members unlimited in-cafe refills.

“For the general population, this is not going to be harmful to them. But if you’re young, if you’re not habituated to caffeine, and/or if you’ve had a lot of caffeine in the day, then the chances of you having an adverse reaction are higher,” Childress said. “There are a lot of variables that have to align for somebody to have that bad of a reaction to it, but it can happen.”

What This Means For You

Panera’s Charged Lemonade contains a decent amount of caffeine. One large lemonade has 237 mg of caffeine, while the FDA says adults can safely consume 400 mg of caffeine each day. Some medications and conditions can make people more sensitive to caffeine, and you may have to pay attention to how many caffeinated beverages you’ve consumed in a day.

Stephanie Brown

By Stephanie Brown

Brown is a nutrition writer who received her Didactic Program in Dietetics certification from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Previously, she worked as a nutrition educator and culinary instructor in New York City.

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