Panera to remove ‘Charged Sips’ drink from Canada amid wrongful death lawsuits

The restaurant chain plans to stop selling Charged Sips drinks across the country, a spokesperson confirmed to Global News on Wednesday. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Panera Bread is removing its caffeinated ‘Charged Sips’ drinks from its Canadian restaurants amid at least two wrongful death lawsuits stemming from consumption of the beverages.

The restaurant chain plans to stop selling the beverages in Canada, a spokesperson confirmed to Global News on Wednesday. However, the spokesperson did not specify the exact timeline or the reason for the change. As of Wednesday, the beverages — available in strawberry and mango lemonade flavours — are still available for purchase on the company’s website.

The beverages are also being pulled from the United States market, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

“We are excited to continue the success of our recent menu transformation, which began with our core options of sandwiches and salads,” a Panera spokesperson told Global News in an email Wednesday.

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“We listened to more than 30,000 guests about what they wanted from Panera, and are focusing next on the broad array of beverages we know our guests desire – ranging from exciting, on-trend flavours, to low sugar and low-caffeine options.”

Panera Bread is currently facing at least two lawsuits stemming from the Charged Sips drinks; one of them brought by the family of a college student who died after allegedly drinking the beverage.

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The lawsuit, which was filed in October 2023, alleges that Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania with a heart condition, died in 2022 after drinking a large cup of Charged Lemonade. One of the complaints raised in the suit is that Panera Bread allegedly does not do enough to warn customers about the high levels of caffeine in the drink.

“We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family,” Panera Bread wrote in a statement upon learning of the lawsuit. “At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”

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And in December 2023 the family of a Florida man filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Panera, the Associated Press has reported.

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In that case, the family alleged David Brown, 46, suffered cardiac arrest and died on Oct. 9 2023 after drinking three Charged Lemonades at his local Panera. Brown’s family said Brown had high blood pressure and didn’t drink energy drinks, but believed Charged Sips were safe because they weren’t advertised as energy drinks.

At the time of its report, the Associated Press said no one from Panera’s corporate offices responded to an inquiry seeking comment.

The allegations in both lawsuits have not been proven in court. Panera has denied any wrongdoing, according to ABC News.

Panera introduced Charged Sips in the spring of 2022. The fruit-flavoured beverages have approximately 390 milligrams of caffeine, according to a Panera Bread caffeine guide, last updated in January of this year. That means that a large cup of the beverages contains more caffeine than a can of Red Bull (77.4 mg) and a can of Monster Energy (160 mg) combined.

In October 2023, Panera added a warning to its Charged Sips drinks, saying it is not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women. This text was added to an already-existing description which claims that Charged Sips contain “about as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.”

There are nine Panera Bread restaurants in Canada, all in Ontario. According to Panera’s website, two flavours of Charged Sips are on sale in Canadian locations.

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— With files from Global News’ Kathryn Mannie and the Associated Press

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