Panera, a.k.a. Saint Louis Bread Company, announced this week that it is implementing a new food policy to remove all artificial flavors and ingredients from its food by the end of 2016. Our hometown bakery-cafe is following the trend of other fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle, which is moving to make its menu completely free of GMOs.
"We believe that food tastes better when it is simpler, fresher -- or cleaner," Panera's director of societal impact initiatives Kate Antonacci tells us. "This means sourcing and serving high-quality ingredients without artificial additives, such as added MSG, artificial trans fats and ingredients we don't believe need to be in your food."
The changes are apparently already in process, though Panera told the Associated Press it's still working to find alternatives for things like pastry icing. Antonacci tells us Panera believes removing artificial flavors is where society is headed, and it would rather not just make reactionary changes.
"We believe that removing artificial ingredients is where the world is headed and, frankly, we've always believed that simpler is better. Everyone can benefit from a cleaner menu. We believe in using ingredients you can pronounce and would naturally have in your pantry," she says. "We are proud to have removed all added MSG, and nearly all high-fructose corn syrup and artificial trans fats from our bakery-café food menu."
Eventually, the menu won't have any artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors or preservatives. Unlike Chipotle, though, Panera won't be removing all genetically modified ingredients, and it's going to take around two years to fully implement.
"That said, this is hard work. It often involves going several levels deep in our supply chain and looking at solutions that range from ingredient replacements to rethinking preparation," Antonacci says. "But we're committed to doing it right, and sometimes that takes time. Our process is one of continual improvement."
We can't see every fast-food place taking these kind of steps, and it's not like Panera is slinging sliders and french fries. Still, it seems like a step in the right direction, and boy, do we love us some Bread Co. You can read the full food policy here.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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