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Panera Bread is getting honest about what’s in your lunch

Panera artificial ingredientsWhen you stop by your favorite farm-to-table lunch spot, you have a very good idea about what you’re getting in your meal with green markets, fish mongers, and farms name-dropped on the menu. But lately, more and more chains are jumping on the transparency bandwagon. The most recent adopter? Panera Bread, which has revealed a list of exactly what they’re eliminating from their menus in their effort to ban artificial ingredients from their food by 2016.

The cafe chain, with more than 1,900 locations in the U.S. and Canada, first announced the initiative last year, and this week released what they’re calling “The No No List” of 150 ingredients including artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives like propylene glycol, nitrates, and FD&C colors, plus unhealthy sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup (whoa!).

“We’ve long believed that simple ingredients are the basis for great food,” says Panera Bread RD Katie Bengston. They’re now filtering those ingredients according to three basic principles. “We’re considering source, processing, and necessity,” she says.

And yes, with a shift this big, there will be casualties. “Some items, like our soups, will be remade with new ingredients. Other items like salad dressings will be made differently. Some may disappear over time, but in the end, we’re committed to making these changes to make our menu even better,” says Bengston. Panera is working with the Environmental Working Group throughout the process, which publicly commended them for the switches.

The reveal comes on the heels of other major food brands like Kraft announcing it’s banishing synthetic colors and artificial preservatives from its Macaroni & Cheese, McDonald’s claiming it would begin limiting the use of antibiotics in its chicken, and Chipotle pledged to serve up GMO-free burritos and tacos.

Sounds like we might be on the cusp of a fast-food revolution. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information, visit

(Photo: Panera Bread)