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Panera to eliminate artificial additives in its foods

Tuesday - 6/3/2014, 9:32am  ET

Panera (Courtesy Panera)
Panera will eliminate artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives from its menu. (Courtesy Panera)

WASHINGTON -- Panera announced a big change coming to its menus: no more artificial additives.

The fast-casual chain announced Tuesday that it will eliminate all artificial additives from its menu by the end of 2016.

The change means there will be no more artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives.

"I want to serve food that I want to eat," Ron Shaich, founder and CEO of Panera, told USA TODAY in a phone interview.

Senior Strategic Director for Health and Food for the Natural Resources Defense Council Erik Olson says Panera is an industry leader.

"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," Olson said in a news release.

USA TODAY reports the following additives that will be removed from Panera's menu items:

  • 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 Jalapeņo 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 is the latest company to make changes with health-conscious millennials in mind. Chipotle and Starbucks also have pushed to reduce artificial additives.

"Millennials understand that prevention is far better than reacting to a disease," Shaich said to USA TODAY.

Even though Panera is making a healthy move, some of its more indulgent menu items such as pastries, cakes and breads, will stay.

But still, Shaich says introducing a transparent menu with clean ingredients can influence consumer behavior.

"When you understand what you're eating, you're more likely to make choices in your self interest," he said to USA TODAY.

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