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Panera pledges to eliminate all artificial food additives by 2016

Panera plans to remove all artificial additives by the end of 2016
Panera plans to remove all artificial additives by the end of 2016
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Panera Bread has announced plans to eliminate all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives from its foods by the end of 2016.

The bakery-restaurant chain said in a press release:

Panera was founded on the belief that quick food could be quality food. We started by baking bread from fresh dough each day in our cafes. That commitment led to others -- like our early decision to remove artificial trans-fats, post calories on menu boards and invest in serving chicken raised without antibiotics. As we continue to make conscious choices about the food we source and serve, we realized it’s also important to share what we’ve accomplished and where we’re going.

The move will dramatically change some of the menu items, removing ingredients like carrageenan, nitrites and sodium benzoate and replacing them with healthier options.

According to The Consumerist, some of the additives Panera is phasing out of its menu include:

  • Deli smoked turkey: potassium lactate, sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite and sodium diacetate.
  • Horseradish: calcium disodium EDTA.
  • Citrus Pepper Chicken: maltodextrin, potassium lactate.
  • Cilantro Jalapeño Hummus: ascorbic acid and tocopherol, tara gum, carrageenan, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate.
  • Summer corn chowder: tapioca Dextrin, modified corn starch, autolyzed yeast extract, maltodextrin, coconut oil derived from triglycerides, artificial flavors.
  • Roast beef: caramel color

In its Food Policy posted to its web site, Panera outlined three goals:

  1. Clean Ingredients
  2. Transparent Menu
  3. Positive Impact

These include proposed commitments to sustainable farming, healthier menu items, nutritional information and other ways the company says it is trying to make a positive impact.

Two changes Panera isn't making? Removing GMOs or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from its products. ABC reports:

Panera also isn't swearing off genetically modified ingredients, another issue that is gaining attention in certain circles. Unlike Chipotle, which says its menu will soon be free of GMOs, Panera uses too many different ingredients to be able to make that claim. And neither chain has any plans to stop selling fountain sodas from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, even though the drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

Panera claims that its working to remove HFCS from some of their beverages in the future.

While the announcement is great news to many customers who try to avoid artificial food additives, organizations the Centers for Science in the Public Interest were less impressed. Executive director Michael Jacobson told CBS MoneyWatch:

The company appears to have made an enormous effort to make many small changes that are totally cosmetic and without any substantive benefit to consumers whatsoever. If Panera really wanted to promote its customers' health (and not just grab a headline) it would cut the salt, sugar, and saturated fat in many of its products, as well as offer more whole grain products, fruits, and veggies.

Hopefully, more healthy changes will come. In the meantime, this is still a wonderful step in the right direction for those of us who care about the ingredients in our foods.

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