Roommate reveals new details about death of 21-year-old who drank Panera ‘charged lemonade’

PHILADELPHIA — The roommate of a 21-year-old college student who died after drinking a “charged lemonade” from Panera Bread is revealing new details exclusively to Channel 2 Action News about the day she died.

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Sarah Katz, who was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, died of a cardiac arrest last year after she drank a highly caffeinated beverage at a Panera Bread in Philadelphia, her family said in a new lawsuit.

Katz suffered from a pre-existing heart condition called Long QT Type 1 Syndrome and avoided drinks with high levels of caffeine.

Her family said in a lawsuit filed against the restaurant chain that Katz didn’t know the drink had high levels of caffeine because the drink was not adequately labeled. The family believes her death was a direct result of drinking the charged lemonade.

Channel 2′s Cobb County Bureau Chief Michele Newell spoke to Katz’s roommate, Victoria Conroy, who remembered the day she died.

Conway said Katz had just signed up for Panera’s Sip Club 10 days before she died. She said Katz had gone to a birthday party at a restaurant connected to their apartment building when she collapsed. Her phone immediately started ringing.

“I remember just hearing, ‘Sarah just collapsed suddenly, she’s having a seizure. You need to get down here right away,’” Conway said.


Conway and some friends raced downstairs, where Katz was unconscious on the ground and EMTs were already performing CPR. They were able to briefly stabilize her, but Katz suffered another heart attack at the hospital and died.

“Immediately I was shaking. I had to sit down and process everything,” she said.

Conway said that pretty quickly, she noticed a half-empty cup of Charged Lemonade at the home the girls shared.

“She had been drinking the lemonade, at least I know 100% concretely, on the day of her death,” Conway said. “She was very vigilant to avoid caffeine. She never drank coffee. She never drank Red Bull. Panera was not properly advertising this if someone as smart and vigilant as Sarah wasn’t really able to understand what was contained in this drink.”

Conway said she thinks Katz had been drinking the Charged Lemonades, unaware they were caffeinated, in the days leading up to her death.

Conway said her roommate wore a heart monitor and took medication daily and that she had regular doctor’s appointments.

She said she misses her friend’s energy and ability to light up a room.

“It hasn’t gotten any easier,” Conway said. “The pain hasn’t gotten any easier.”

Newell spoke to a cardiologist Tuesday about how energy drinks can affect the heart.

“Sometimes with a higher dose of caffeine, that can sometimes irritate the heart a little bit in a sense that it could potentially trigger symptoms of palpitations where an individual can feel their heart skip a beat or two,” Dr. Jonathan H. Kim with Emory University said.

Panera issued a statement about the lawsuit Monday, saying:

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

Michele Newell

Michele Newell, WSB-TV

Michele Newell has been part of the WSB-TV family since November 2021. Before moving to Atlanta, Michele worked at TV news stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio and Steubenville, Ohio.