Multiple families have filed complaints against the company, alleging that the drink caused health defects and in some cases fatalities
After multiple lawsuits have been filed against the company, alleging that the drink caused health defects and in some cases fatalities, the fast casual chain has now removed the self-serve fountains in some locations.
“Looking for Charged Sips? You can pick up your order on the Rapid Pick-Up shelf or at the pick-up counter. Ask an associate if you need help locating your drink," reads a sign at some Panera locations, as confirmed by PEOPLE.
The new policy makes it so that customers cannot serve themselves lemonade or get a refill, but instead must rely on an employee to do so.
Panera did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment and clarification.
In October, after the first complaint against the chain was filed, some Panera locations put up signs in front of the charged lemonade dispensers with increased warning.
“Contains CAFFEINE – Consume in Moderation. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women,” read the signs.
Panera customer Lauren Skerritt filed a legal complaint against the bakery chain on Jan. 16. The 28-year-old athlete claimed that drinking Charged Lemonade caused her to have “permanent cardiac injuries” despite having “no underlying medical conditions,” per the documents obtained by PEOPLE.
On April 8, Skerritt, an occupational therapist, who played soccer and often competed in obstacle course races, consumed two and a half Charged Lemonades from a Panera in Greenville, Rhode Island. After, she experienced several episodes of palpitations, which she says she has never experienced before, causing her to go to the hospital.
While at the hospital, she experienced a syncopal episode. She was moved to critical care as her heart rate was up in the 180s to 190s. She revisited the hospital on Aug. 30 to be treated for early onset atrial fibrillation and testing showed no evidence of underlying structural heart disease, according to the complaint.
Prior to drinking the lemonades, Skerritt “worked out regularly” but now, months after consuming the beverage, Skerritt alleges that she can no longer exercise, socialize or work in the same capacity. The complaint also claims that since drinking the lemonades Skerritt has experienced shortness of breath, palpitations, brain fog, difficulty thinking and concentrating, body shakes, and weakness. She takes daily medication to regulate her heart rate and rhythm.
A regular size of the Charged Lemonade drink at Panera contains 260 milligrams of caffeine, while a large has 390 milligrams, according to Panera's website. The drink is advertised as containing “as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.”
Dennis Brown died on Oct. 9 after consuming three cups of Panera’s Charged Lemonade. Brown’s cause of death was cardiac arrest due to hypertensive disease, according to a death certificate provided by Elizabeth Crawford of Kline and Specter, PC.
Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old college student with a heart condition, died in September 2022 after drinking Panera’s caffeinated lemonade. Per the medical examiner’s report obtained by PEOPLE, Katz’s cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to Long QT syndrome.”
"We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family," a spokesperson for Panera told PEOPLE in October 2023. "At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter."
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Read the original article on People.