Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Panera Bread to Drop 150 'Unacceptable' Additives From Its Menu


Would you like some tertiary butylhydroquinone or azodicarbonamide with your food? The first diffiult-to-pronounce ingredient is a potent preservative that increases the shelf life of oily and fatty foods (such as McDonald's never-rotting french fries) and has been linked to stomach ulcers and damage to DNA in animal studies. The other is the notorious “yoga mat” chemical that's banned in the European Union and Australia.

Panera Bread is removing these two additives and at least 148 more artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors and flavors from its menu by 2016.

Panera Bread is the latest restaurant joining the healthy food trend. "We are not scientists. We are people who know and love food, and who believe that the journey to better food starts with simpler ingredients," said Panera CEO Ron Shaich.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The company has publicly shared their "No-No List" that contains every single artificial additive that will be dropped from their food items, from soups to salads to sandwiches, making it the first national restaurant chain to do so.

"Last year we unveiled our Food Policy to hold ourselves accountable to long held values and set the future vision for our menu. The No No List is the latest step on our journey to clean food and a transparent menu," said founder and CEO Ron Shaich in a statement.

"We are not scientists. We are people who know and love food, and who believe that the journey to better food starts with simpler ingredients. And to turn that belief into meaningful action, we consulted third-party scientists and experts to compile a list of common artificial additives that we are going to do without," he continued. "Simplifying our pantry is essential to our vision, but it is not an end point. We want to be an ally for wellness for the millions of guests we serve each week."

Starting this week, Panera will offer new "clean" salad dressings that are made without artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives. Panera's salads, such as their Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad and the new Kale Caesar, will be made entirely without these artificial additives, the company said.

The fast-casual chain has been working to "un-engineer" their food menu of artificial additives for more than a year, it said. "Dressings have been one of the most complex projects given the number of artificial additives—namely flavors and preservatives—conventionally used for taste and consistency," said Dan Kish, Panera's head chef. "We're proud to be offering bakery-cafe salad dressings without artificial additives. We believe they also taste better than ever."

USA Today has listed some other examples of Panera's artificial additive removal:

  • Greek salad dressing—removed hydrogenated soy protein, maltodextrin, propylene glycol alginate, and the generic spice blend;
  • Mozzarella on tomato mozzarella flatbread—removed titanium dioxide;
  • Chicken noodle soup—removed hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, autolyzed yeast extract, and modified corn starch;
  • Poppyseed dressing—removed cellulose gel and artificial flavors.

The announcement from Panera does not include sodas and other beverages it offers, but executives said they are working on this challenge, especially in bottled beverages, USA Today reported.

Panera said that roughly 85 percent of the ingredients on their bakery-cafe food menu are in test or have rolled out nationally without these artificial additives. They will continue to rework their menu until their 2016 deadline.

"With this bold commitment, Panera is showing impressive leadership in the restaurant industry to give consumers what they increasingly demand: food with fewer artificial ingredients and additives," said Ken Cook, the president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group (EWG). "We are grateful that the Panera team reached out to our experts and listened to our recommendations to improve their fare, eliminating EWG's 'dirty dozen' food additives from their food and using other information from our Food Scores database. We commend Panera for stepping up in support of healthier food made with 'cleaner' ingredients."

More and more restaurants and food companies are stepping up for healthier, cleaner food. Chipotle recently removed genetically modified ingredients from its menu, making it the first major restaurant chain to take this momentous step. McDonald’s announced that within two years, it will only buy and sell “chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine.” And last week, Tyson Foods (the largest U.S. poultry producer and one of McDonald’s major meat suppliers) said it plans to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chickens by September 2017.

However, some consumer advocates are questioning their motives. "I applaud Panera for replacing dyes and certain other questionable additives in its foods," Michael Jacobson, executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, told USA Today. "But eliminating many of the ingredients with unfamiliar chemical names, like calcium propionate and sodium erythorbate, is done solely for PR purposes and not to make safer, more healthful foods." He added that there's also a high calorie count in many foods, and criticized its wide use of white flour and sugar.

In response, Panera CEO Shaich said, "We want to be an ally for people eating well—not the food police. There are days when I love the indulgence of a blueberry muffin. We're about the joy of food."

Check out Panera's promotional video on "unacceptable ingredients:"


10 Superfoods You Can Buy This Spring at Your Local Farmers’ Markets

20 Foods You Should Avoid Like the Plague

Organic Food Industry Explodes as Consumer Demand Spikes

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A grizzly bear sow with cub in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Danita Delimont / Gallo Images / Getty Images Plus

Grizzly bears in Wyoming and Idaho won't be subject to a trophy hunt thanks to a federal court decision Wednesday upholding endangered species protections for these iconic animals.

Read More Show Less
Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less


About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less