College student death should be a lesson for campus dining

"The customer’s safety should be a restaurant’s top priority, no matter how much it ‘hurts’ their bottom line." | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

Kailey Krantz | Staff Writer

Campus dining is part of the college experience, which is why ingredient transparency is critical to staying alive and healthy.

Sarah Katz was a 21-year-old student attending the University of Pennsylvania when she tragically died from cardiac arrest after drinking Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade on Sep. 10, 2022. 

According to the lawsuit her parents filed on Oct. 20, 2023, the lemonade had a ridiculous amount of caffeine compared to energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster.

Katz had a heart condition and was advised by her doctors to stay away from energy drinks; however, since it wasn’t disclosed, she was under the impression that the lemonade was safe. 

Fortunately, Panera Bread did add a warning label to the charged lemonade following her death, but this shouldn’t inspire restaurants to always take a reactive response. To me, it seems like it was ‘too little, too late’.

When I read the article, I wholeheartedly sympathized with Katz’s family and the loss of their daughter. 

Though Katz wasn’t dining at a campus restaurant, students frequently dine on campus, whether at dining halls or other restaurants. With college being a stepping stone to full independence, this is also frequently the time when students are becoming fully responsible for their health, particularly with meals.

I, like so many other students on campus, love eating Panera Bread at MMC from time to time, and it broke my heart that someone died from consuming one of their beverages.

What makes this story more tragic is this could happen to any of us, despite our health. This level of negligence was unacceptable and completely avoidable. 

Restaurants should be transparent with their ingredients and their content level, so that this may never happen again. This goes for all ingredients, not just the typical food allergens like peanuts.

This goes for all restaurants too, but particularly campus dining spots, which largely serve students who are just learning how to make healthy eating decisions and may not have an experienced eye for nutrition.

Explicitly and actively informing the public by listing the ingredients underneath the food item is a great way of preventing these events from happening and gives student customers more awareness about what they are about to purchase and consume. 

While I may not have a heart condition or any other severe medical condition, it does not mean these restaurants should assume that every student customer is perfectly healthy.

This also led me to wonder if the chain wasn’t completely transparent with the lemonade, what other menu items are they hiding the ingredients from the public eye?

The growing suspicion could lead to students losing their trust in the restaurant and looking elsewhere to eat.

The warning labels of a potentially risky food and beverage item should have been there from the start. The customer’s safety should be a restaurant’s top priority, no matter how much it ‘hurts’ their bottom line. 

Panera Bread’s charged lemonade is only one of the many harmful things we might consume on a regular basis. As students, dismissing the nutritional facts for a decent price is extremely dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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