Panera Bread is continuing its quest to be one of the healthiest fast-casual chains in the United States. On Tuesday, the company announced that it will get rid of all artificial additives in its food — that means, say goodbye to artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors, and flavors.
"I want to serve food that I want to eat," founder and CEO Ron Shaich told USA Today. Panera was one of the first establishments to stop using chickens raised with antibiotics 10 years ago, and also to post calorie counts in restaurants, leading experts to believe that other chains might follow this latest step. The company will also work to remove high-fructose corn syrup from beverages sometime in the near future.
Although Panera will no longer serve roast beef with caramel color, summer corn chowder with maltodextrin, and smoked turkey with sodium nitrate, "these changes don't turn Panera into a health food emporium," says Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Most breads are still made with white flour, he noted, and the baked goods are filled to the brim with sugar. Nonetheless, "Panera's intention to eliminate artificial food additives is an important step in the right direction."