Lawsuit Links Panera’s Charged Lemonade to a Death

A Florida man dies of a cardiac arrest after drinking three servings of highly caffeinated Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade, the lawsuit alleges.

Dennis Brown, 46, suffered from a fatal cardiac arrest while walking home from a Panera Bread in Fleming Island, Florida, according to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his family in a court in Delaware.

His death was caused by cardiac arrest due to hypertensive disease, Brown’s death certificate shared with NBC News states.

Because Brown had high blood pressure, he did not consume energy drinks. It is unclear whether he knew how much caffeine and other stimulants Charged Lemonade contains, the lawsuit says.

This is already the second lawsuit linking Panera’s Charged Lemonade to a death. Last September, Sarah Katz, 21, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, died of cardiac arrest hours after consuming the product.

Because Katz had long QT syndrome type 1, a heart condition, she avoided energy drinks, as advised by doctors, according to the lawsuit brought on her behalf.

The complaint calls Charged Lemonade a "dangerous energy drink" and claims that Panera Bread failed to adequately warn consumers about its ingredients, including the stimulant guarana extract.

Panera expressed their "deep sympathy" for Brown’s family and said both lawsuits are "without merit."

"Based on our investigation, we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products," Panera said in a statement.

How much caffeine is too much?

A large, 30-fluid-ounce Charged Lemonade contains 390 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, there is about 63 mg of caffeine in a standard espresso cup and about 80 mg in an 8 fl oz Red Bull can.

Healthy adults can safely consume 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. The toxic effects of caffeine, such as seizures, can be observed with rapid consumption of around 1,200 milligrams of caffeine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms of overconsumption of caffeine may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Jitters
  • Anxiousness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • A feeling of unhappiness

Can you overdose on caffeine?

Some 94% of Americans consume beverages with caffeine, a nervous system stimulant. While deaths due to caffeine overdose are very rare, they are possible.

In 2016, a 16-year-old boy from South Carolina died of a "caffeine-induced cardiac event" that caused probable arrhythmia after consuming a latte, Mountain Dew, and energy drink in just two hours. In 2012, the FDA investigated whether the energy drink Monster Energy could have caused five additional deaths but did not come to definitive conclusions.

Some people may be more vulnerable to caffeine than others. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under the age of 12 should not consume any caffeine. The daily caffeine intake in teenagers 12 to 18 should not exceed 100 mg.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg a day.

Adults and teenagers should not mix caffeine with alcohol, drugs, and medications like ephedrine, theophylline, and echinacea.

While it is yet to be determined if Brown’s death was caused by Panera’s Charged Lemonade, people with heart conditions should consume highly caffeinated drinks carefully.

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