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Panera to Give Artificial Additives the Boot, Including at Coronado Restaurant

The chain of 1,800 restaurants, including on Orange Avenue in Coronado, announced Tuesday that it is dumping all artificial additives in its food.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
Written by Sydney Wu

Wifi won’t be the only free offering for Panera Bread customers as the chain announced plans Tuesday to sell food that is free of artificial additives.

“I want to serve food that I want to eat,” said Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and CEO of Panera to USA Today in a phone interview.

The company says it will remove all artificial additives from the bakery-cafe food menu. So get ready to say goodbye to artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives by the end of 2016.

According to The Consumerist, some of the additives Panera is easing 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

“Panera was founded on the belief that quick food could be quality food,” said Shaich in a press release. “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.”

This new push is coming during a slow sales and growth season for Panera according to ABC News. This move is also playing a major marketing role -- buying food that is natural make consumers feel better regardless of nutritional benefit.

The press release states that getting rid of all the artificial additives in Panera’s food is part of an initiative for clean ingredients -- getting rid of things Panera doesn’t think needs to be in your food, bye bye MSG -- a transparent menu that really shows customers what they’re eating and improving the food system.

The United States Food and Drug Administration describes food additives to literally mean “any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result -- directly or indirectly -- in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food.”

Of course, not all of these additions are necessarily good for consumers. Hence Panera’s decision to kick them off the menu.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest offers a list of food additives with safety ratings.

USA Today reported that the hardest part of the new initiative would be to get suppliers to willingly conform to the chain restaurant’s needs.

Panera’s plan is the latest following other chains such as Chipotleand Starbucks, according to USA Today. In 2009, Starbucks committed to a similar push, removing artificial flavors, dyes, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners for its food.

However, Panera is not planning to say goodbye to genetically modified ingredients, ABC News reported. The restaurant is not able to be GMO free -- unlike what Chipotle is pushing for -- because the food simply contains too many ingredients.

USA Today reported that Panera may be getting rid of the high-fructose corn syrup from many of their beverages in the future.

But will the push for more natural and less artificial bring in more revenue or unwanted lawsuits? ABC News reported that advertising free of artificial ingredients has already gotten chains such as Whole Foods Market into trouble -- a lawsuit was filed against them in November for artificial ingredients despite the claim to be artificial free.

“Panera’s forward-looking policy on antibiotics has made it an industry leader,” said Erik Olson, Senior Strategic Director for Health and Food for the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to the press release. “The company has been purchasing chicken raised without antibiotics for more than a decade -- and over the years expanded to roasted turkey, ham, and sausage. We support their newest commitment to remove artificial additives. We look forward to working with them to ensure all their ingredients are essential and safe.”

Panera Bread has 1,800 bakery-cafes in 45 states and in Ontario, Canada -- under Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. or Paradise Bakery & Cafe -- according to the press release. All of these restaurants aim to be artificial additive free by the end of 2016.

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