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Friday, May 8, 2015

Panera Bread is the latest food company to get rid of artificial additives

Panera Bread, the American soup and sandwich chain that helped pioneer the country's migration to fresher, healthier-seeming fast food, wants to be a little fresher.

Today, the company publicly published a "No No List" of artificial additives including colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners that are banned from its restaurants as of today in the US (its rollout date in Canada has yet to be determined). The restaurant says it will remove more than 150 ingredients, including aspartame (taken out of Diet Pepsi last month) and azodicarbonamide (aka, the much-maligned yoga mat chemical), as well as old health foes like high-fructose corn syrup and lard. (Also on the list: sucralose, the artificial sweetener replacing aspartame in Diet Pepsi and acesulfame K, the beverage's other sweetener.)

The move is part of a "clean ingredients" initiative launched last year, which has included reducing antibiotics use in its meats and improving treatment of animals.

Consumer activists differ on the safety of some of the ingredients Panera chose to remove. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, for instance, said that it was happy to see Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and other additives taken off the menus, but that removing others is "more about public relations than public health."

Panera says it consulted organizations such as the Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future on ingredient removals. But ultimately, CEO Ron Shaich tells Quartz, the decisions about which ingredients to keep and which to kick to the kitchen's curb rested on one question: "'What do we want to serve our own kids?'"

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