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Panera CEO on push to banish artificial ingredients

Samantha Masunaga
Los Angeles Times
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Fast-food casual chain Panera Bread Co. is now part of an ever more crowded club of companies pledging to remove artificial ingredients from their food.

The St. Louis company Tuesday released a list of additives no longer allowed on its menu, updating a promise made a year ago. It plans to banish more than 150 artificial ingredients including high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and artificial colors.

Just in the last few months, PepsiCo Inc., Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Dunkin’ Donuts and Kraft Foods Group Inc. have all said they would eliminate various synthetic ingredients from products. Meanwhile, McDonald’s Corp. and Tyson Foods Inc. said they would phase out the use of chickens treated with human antibiotics.

The changes are a response to consumers who increasingly look for fresher food and healthier options, analysts said.

Here are some of the biggest company announcements:

Nestle

Nestle USA said in February it would remove all artificial flavors and FDA-certified colors from its chocolate candy and replace them with ingredients from natural sources, a move that would affect more than 250 products and 10 brands.

Hershey

A day after Nestle’s announcement, the Hershey Co. said it would kiss difficult-to-understand ingredients goodbye. In February, Hershey said it would start using simple ingredients that were responsibly sourced.

“We all want and deserve to know what’s in our food,” said John P. Bilbrey, chief executive of Hershey, in a statement.

Dunkin’ Donuts

The doughnut chain said it would remove titanium dioxide, a whitening agent used in sunscreen, from its powdered doughnut recipes in March.

An environmental advocacy group said it found nanoparticles in the company’s white powdered sugar through independent laboratory tests. The group said the small size of the nanoparticles could cause damage to cells and tissues.

The Food and Drug Administration does not have a broad stance on products containing nanomaterials.

Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer for Dunkin’ Brands, said the ingredient “does not meet the definition of ‘nanomaterial,’ ” but that the company was in the process of “rolling out a solution” without titanium dioxide.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Kraft bid adieu to the signature orange hue of its blue box macaroni and cheese, saying last month it would be colored only with natural ingredients like paprika and turmeric by January.

Triona Schmelter, Kraft vice president of marketing, meals, said in a statement that the company spoke with customers about what they wanted to see in Kraft products.

“They told us they want to feel good about the foods they eat and serve their families, including everything from improved nutrition to simpler ingredients,” said Schmelter said.

McDonald’s

The fast food giant said in March it would phase out the use of chickens treated with human antibiotics and start selling only milk from cows not treated with the artificial growth hormone rbST.

“Our customers want food that they feel great about eating — all the way from the farm to the restaurant — and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations,” Mike Andres, head of McDonald’s U.S.A, said in a statement.

Tyson

After the McDonald’s announcement, Tyson Foods Inc. said in April it would eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chickens by 2017.

“We’re confident our meat and poultry products are safe, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm,” Tyson Chief Executive Donnie Smith said in a statement.

Diet Pepsi

In a few months, Diet Pepsi cans and bottles will be emblazoned with a new tagline — “Now Aspartame Free.”

PepsiCo said in late April that it would remove the artificial sweetener from most of its diet sodas. The new version will be sweetened with sucralose, also known as Splenda.

Chipotle

The burrito chain said last week it removed the “few” genetically modified ingredients in its food, the final step in a process that started a year ago.

But it is not totally free of genetically modified organism. Many beverages contain genetically modified ingredients and it is working to phase out meat and dairy from animals given “at least some GMO feed.”

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