Panera is taking its caffeinated Charged Lemonades off the menu, Bloomberg first reported on May 7. The Charged Lemonades had prompted multiple lawsuits alleging that the drinks’ caffeine content led to deaths or health problems like heart palpitations.


Panera Bread is removing Charged Sips from its menu following two lawsuits that allege the beverages caused the deaths of a 21-year-old woman and 46-year-old man who weren’t aware that they were consuming massive quantities of caffeine. 

How much caffeine is in Panera’s Charged Lemonades?

With ice, a “regular” size of a Panera Charged drink has nearly as much caffeine as a grande (16 oz.) Starbucks iced coffee, which has 185 milligrams of caffeine. A “large” Charged drink is in the same ballpark as a venti (24 oz.) Starbucks iced coffee, which has 265 mg of caffeine.

Regular (20 oz.) sizes of Panera Charged Sips (with ice)

  • Strawberry Lemon Mint Charged Lemonade: 155 mg caffeine
  • Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade: 158 mg caffeine
  • Blood Orange Charged Splash: 178 mg caffeine

Large (30 oz.) sizes of Panera Charged Sips (with ice)

  • Strawberry Lemon Mint Charged Lemonade: 233 mg caffeine
  • Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade: 237 mg caffeine
  • Blood Orange Charged Splash: 302 mg caffeine

The Panera Charged drinks have more caffeine than some energy drinks, which vary by brand and size—for example, an 8 oz. Red Bull has 80 mg, a 12 oz. Celsius or Prime Energy has 200 mg, and a 16 oz. Bang has 300 mg.

All Panera Charged drinks have far more caffeine than a 12 oz. can of a caffeinated soda like Coke (34 mg), Dr Pepper (41 mg), or Mountain Dew (54 mg).


How much caffeine is too much?

It depends. As the Food and Drug Administration explains, consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is “not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects” for most healthy adults (not children).

But even adults vary in how quickly they break down caffeine and how sensitive they are to its effects. According to the FDA, adults who may need to limit caffeine include:

  • People with some health conditions or taking certain medications
  • People who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding

That’s why Chemical Cuisine, CSPI’s food additive safety database, rates caffeine as “Certain People Should Avoid.” And keep in mind that overdoing caffeine can make you jittery and disturb your sleep.


How Panera Charged Lemonades began

Introducing the Charged lineup in 2022, Panera’s website read, “Join our Unlimited Sip Club and enjoy endless NEW Charged Lemonades, coffees, teas, and soda.” (Joining the club cost $10.99 per month in 2022.) The Charged Lemonades were advertised as “plant-based, clean caffeine powered by guarana and green coffee extract.”

At the time, the drinks were offered to Sip Club customers from self-service in-store dispensers, so a full large size (30 oz.) cup that a customer did not fill with any ice could contain as much as 390 mg caffeine. Many Panera stores later moved the dispensers behind the counter, NBC News reported. (When the drinks are served with ice, the caffeine per large cup is 302 mg or less.)


CSPI’s first caution to consumers about Charged Sips

In 2022, CSPI warned subscribers to our Nutrition Action publication and our emails about how much caffeine and sugar just one large Charged Lemonade without ice could contain:

“Panera’s new Charged Lemonades contain appalling amounts of total sugar—from sugar, agave, and apple juice concentrate. (Panera doesn't disclose added sugar information.) For example, a 30-ounce large cup of Mango Yuzu Citrus flavor has 124 grams of total sugar (30 tsp) and 500 calories with no ice, and 75 grams (18 tsp) and 300 calories with ice. To put that into perspective, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends people consume no more than 50 grams (12 tsp) of added sugar daily,” we wrote in a 2022 email, urging our supporters to tweet at the company. “Tell Panera: Enough with the high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks.”

Even with ice, a large Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade still contains a hefty 77 grams (18 teaspoons) of total sugar and 330 calories. The newer large Blood Orange Charged Splash has 0 grams of sugar and 20 calories because it replaces sugar with the low-calorie sweetener allulose. (Allulose is safe, but it can cause GI discomfort if you consume more than you can tolerate.)


Other unhealthy moves from Panera

The Charged Lemonades weren’t the only Panera menu items to receive the dubious honor of a “Food Fail” in Nutrition Action  in recent years. Other Fails included the lineup of Panera Toasted Baguettes this year—the former 1,110-calorie Chicken & Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt was on par with eating two Big Macs—and the 860-calorie Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich in 2021.

To its credit, Panera offers some healthier options like a decent array of salads, as well as some climate-friendly menu items that feature chicken, beans, and vegetables, as we’ve pointed out. But with a menu boasting a 390-calorie chocolate chip cookie, a new 1,120-calorie Ciabatta Cheesesteak, and a new 1,030-calorie bowl of Bacon Mac & Cheese, Panera has some room for improvement.

“The major menu overhaul Panera announced this year allegedly trimmed some classic items like turkey chili and Asian sesame salad, in favor of more widely appealing—and in many cases, more indulgent—fare like the new Chicken Bacon Rancher and Ciabatta Cheesesteak sandwiches,” the restaurant trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News  reported last month.

Sounds like Panera could use another overhaul.


How much caffeine are you consuming?

To see how much caffeine you could be getting in caffeinated drinks, coffees, teas, snacks, over-the-counter medicines, and more, check out CSPI’s caffeine chart of 150+ foods and drinks.

It can be hard to know how much caffeine is in foods and beverages. That’s because the FDA doesn’t require packaged foods and beverages to disclose caffeine content on their labels (and restaurants don’t have to disclose caffeine on their menus). Some companies label caffeine levels voluntarily, but the numbers may be small or hard to spot. And you can’t assume that all coffee ice creams, yogurts, or energy gels have the same caffeine levels.

A bit of good news on that front: CSPI is working to pass the Food Labeling Modernization Act, a bill that would overhaul packaged food labels in many ways, including by requiring any food or beverage with more than 10 milligrams of caffeine per serving to disclose caffeine content on the label.

Ask Congress to pass the Food Labeling Modernization Act

 

Lindsay Moyer (she/her/hers) writes articles about choosing healthier foods in supermarkets and restaurants for Nutrition Action.

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