A Sour Mistake

Toxic consumption

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is considered a safe dose for healthy adults.  Depending on the type of roast and brand of coffee, this amount of caffeine equates to four or five cups of coffee.  Despite this guideline, people with varying health conditions may exhibit sensitivities to caffeine that require them to limit their intake.  The case of 21-year-old college student, Sarah Katz, exemplifies this circumstance.  In September 2022, Katz’s caffeine intake was linked to her suffering of two instances of cardiac arrest.  

The documented cause of her death was cardiac arrhythmia caused by long QT syndrome.  The main issue with Katz’s death is the beverage that she consumed earlier that day.  Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade, in size large, contains more caffeine than the combination of a 12-ounce Red Bull and a 16-ounce Monster Energy Drink.  In addition, since the age of five, Katz lived with a heart condition called Long QT Type 1 Syndrome, for which she took medication and monitored caffeine intake.  The condition impacted the electrical system that controlled her heartbeat, which led her to avoid energy drinks. 

Based on the detailed attention that she afforded her condition, it may seem strange why she purchased the Charged Lemonade.  Naturally, it may be assumed that an individual with such a health condition would limit caffeine and be cognizant of consumption.  As addressed in the lawsuit recently filed by Katz’s family, Panera Bread failed to properly label the lemonade as a highly caffeinated beverage or energy drink and placed it next to caffeine-free options in the restaurant.  In relation to the FDA guideline, one large 30-ounce Charged Lemonade contains 390 milligrams of caffeine.  Because Katz’s Panera subscription included free refills at the self-serve kiosk, it is uncertain how much of the lemonade Katz drank the day that she died.  The lack of Panera’s quality control arguably impacted the devastating incident.