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Panera Bread plans to ditch 150 artificial ingredients

Panera Bread announced plans to remove over 150 artificial ingredients from its foods by 2016.
/ Source: TODAY

Azodicarbonamide? Ethoxyquin? If you can't pronounce it, Panera Bread doesn't want you eating it.

The fast-casual sandwich chain posted online Tuesday a "No No List" of over 150 artificial ingredients it has pledged to remove from its food by 2016, including those it has already.

The chain's nearly 1,900 restaurants join a growing number of eateries revamping their menu to be more natural. Last month Chipotle announced it was getting rid of all genetically modified ingredients and Kraft said it was swapping out artificial coloring in its macaroni and cheese in favor of paprika, annatto and turmeric. In all, at least a dozen different food companies and restaurants have made similar moves in the past six months.

They're responding to an increasing consumer demand for more natural food that's more like what they can get at their farmer's markets.

In this world, "whole foods" and "simple" are synonymous with "nutritious" and "good." At the opposite end of the spectrum is anything that sounds like it was made in a lab.

"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 Bread CEO Ron Shaich in a statement.

Food advocates praised the move, but cautioned consumers to look past the press release.

"Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, and other artificial food dyes shouldn’t be in the food supply in the first place, but I applaud Panera for getting rid of them," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"But just because something is artificial or its name is hard to pronounce doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. Some of the additives Panera is ditching are perfectly innocuous, such as calcium propionate or sodium lactate—so those moves are more about public relations than public health."