Panera Ditching 150 Artificial Ingredients

Chain draws 'line in the sand'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2015 8:07 AM CDT
Panera Ditching 150 Artificial Ingredients
Panera's menu revamp: just a PR gimmick?   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

If you've become accustomed to caprocaprylobehenin in your Panera meals, get unaccustomed. The casual-eating chain announced yesterday it's cutting that artificial ingredient and some 150 others (out of some 465 ingredients currently used) from its menu by the end of 2016 in response to consumer demand, the Wall Street Journal reports. The items on the eatery's "No No List" include artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, and preservatives, though some artificial items will remain in the beverages it sells. Panera says it's the first restaurant company in the US to make public such a list, Fortune reports. "We're trying to draw a line in the sand in the industry so that consumers have an easy way to know what's in the food they buy," says Ron Shaich, chief executive of Panera, per the New York Times.

Panera joins the likes of Chipotle, McDonald's, and even mac-and-cheese king Kraft in offering what appear to be more healthful, natural foods. But Sarah Kaplan writes for the Washington Post that this "reflects more PR than science," arguing that some of the ingredients haven't been linked to negative effects. The executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest agrees, telling USA Today that "eliminating many of the ingredients with unfamiliar chemical names … is done solely for PR purposes and not to make safer, more healthful foods." Shaich doesn't totally dispute this, telling the Times, "I'm not wading into the debate over whether any of these things cause cancer or are otherwise bad for you. I just think this is where the consumer's head is right now." The changes are already beginning: artificial-ingredient-free salad dressings hit Panera tomorrow. (Read more Panera Bread stories.)

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