A 21-year-old woman died after drinking Panera’s Charged Lemonades — which are essentially highly caffeinated energy drinks. Sarah Katz may have believed the beverage was standard lemonade, when in fact it contained 390 milligrams of caffeine in the large size, CNN reported. For comparison, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has 95 milligrams of caffeine, while a 12-ounce Red Bull offers 111.
Because Katz had free refills on beverages, it’s unclear how much she drank.
A lawsuit filed by her family says that Katz was “reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink.”
But Katz had a heart condition. She died of cardiac arrhythmia, CNN reported.
“We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family,” Panera wrote in a statement to CNN. “At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”
Why it matters:
This woman’s death is a tragedy. Obviously, no one intended for this to happen, but the questions are now: How can it be prevented from happening again, and what will Panera do next?
Avoiding both medical and legal advice, the key for PR pros is transparency and communication.
The lawsuit claims that Panera advertises the Charged Lemonade as “Plant-based and Clean with as much caffeine as our Dark Roast Coffee.” These are all buzzy, popular words that can certainly entice the health-conscious consumers Panera courts. But it can also lull them into a false sense of security. “Clean” and “plant-based” doesn’t mean safe for everyone, especially when you’re dealing with large amounts of caffeine. And as the CNN article notes, they don’t specify what size dark roast they mean. In the end, a large version of the lemonade contained as much caffeine as four or five cups of coffee.
Be clear about what you’re selling, or the results can be devastating.
Editor’s Top Picks:
- In other news about transparency and the lack thereof, an examination of top AI models finds them severely lacking in the disclosure of crucial information, according to researchers from Stanford, MIT and Princeton. Axios reported that the researchers found that, “unless AI companies are more forthcoming about the inner workings, training data and impacts of their most advanced tools, users will never be able to fully understand the risks associated with AI, and experts will never be able to mitigate them.” If you’re experimenting with generative AI, keep this in mind. By and large, we’re getting information out of — and putting our own data into— a black box. We can’t entirely control where our answers come from or what these bots do with our own submitted data. Tread lightly.
- “Verified” users on X — who are not verified in the classic sense but only in the sense that they pay $8 per month — are responsible for spreading 74% of misinformation on the platform related to the Israel-Hamas war, according to a NewsGuard analysis reported on by Adweek. Among the false claims were lies that Ukraine sold weapons to Hamas and a fake video of Israeli officials being captured by Hamas. Given the trust that was placed in blue checkmarks for more than a decade, Musk’s decision to turn “verification” into something else altogether adds to the instability and risks of the platform for brands.
- Tsingtao, the second largest beer brewer in China, is dealing with a viral video disaster. CNBC reported that footage of a worker urinating into a tank of malt at a brewery went viral on social network Weibo, racking up tens of millions of views. Tsingtao responded that they had reported the disgusting incident to authorities, had sealed off the vat of malt and that “At present, the production and operation of the company are normal in every respect!”