In 2022, the cafe chain Panera launched its Charged Lemonade brand, the company’s answer to energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster. The large, 30-ounce version of the beverage contains 124 grams of sugar and 390 milligrams of caffeine, which some customers do not realize when they order the drink at the counter. In fact, a pair of recent lawsuits filed against Panera claim that two people have died as a result of drinking several Charged Lemonades without knowing about how much caffeine they contained. Both had preexisting health conditions that caused them to avoid caffeinated beverages, and the lawsuits claim that the company did not sufficiently label the ingredients included in its Charged Lemonade.
Panera has disputed both claims with the results of its own investigations, which found that the deaths were “not caused by one of the company’s products.” The soup and sandwich chain “stands firmly by the safety of our products,” saying that both lawsuits are “equally without merit.” The company points to the caffeine levels of products at Starbucks, where a 20-ounce light roast coffee contains a whopping 475 milligrams of caffeine. Panera’s argument rests on the claim that their competitors regularly sell drinks that could be seen as far more dangerous than Charged Lemonade. Still, the legal complaints against the company are focused on Panera’s labeling and distribution of the drink rather than strictly its caffeine content.
Although Panera displayed the caffeine content for Charged Lemonade on its menu, the lawsuits allege that the company’s efforts did not go far enough. By failing to draw attention to its potentially dangerous ingredients, Panera “negligently and recklessly misrepresented” the lemonade’s caffeine levels and subsequently created a “defective” product. These are serious claims to make against a prominent company, and only time will tell if the two lawsuits will succeed against Panera. The chain maintains its innocence but also added more warnings about Charged Lemonade on its website, advising customers who are pregnant or with caffeine sensitivities to steer clear of the beverage. Along with keeping vulnerable people away from the drink, these warnings could also protect Panera from further legal action.
- Why is Panera facing legal action against its Charged Lemonade? Do you think these lawsuits have merit?
- Do you think Panera’s Charged Lemonade qualifies as a defective product? Why or why not?
Sources: Kate Gibson, “Panera’s Caffeine-Fueled Lemonade Cited in Second Death, Suit Says,” Yahoo Finance, December 5, 2023; Mark Joseph Stern, “Panera’s “Lemonade That Kills You” Is Really a Story About Our Broken Country,” Slate, December 8, 2023. Photo by Mike Mozart.