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PSA: the FDA doesn’t clearly define “egg”…so what’s in your breakfast sandwich?

What's in your breakfast sandwich? Pin It
Photo: Stocksy/Andrew Cebulka

Grabbing a breakfast sandwich probably doesn’t feel too unhealthy—it’s made of mostly eggs, after all…or is it? As it turns out, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t currently require a clear definition or standard of what an “egg” actually is.

Here’s what the guidelines say: “No regulation shall be promulgated fixing and establishing a reasonable definition and standard of identity for the food commonly known as eggs.”

Wait, really? As if I needed another reason (beyond benefitting my online dating game) to go vegan…

Panera Bread is taking advantage of this rather strange gray area to tout its new breakfast sandwiches and simultaneously direct aim at the FDA by filing a petition to amend the regulation. The chain requested a clearer definition for the term “egg” to, you know, describe what it actually is: a food that comes from a cracked shell, no additives or processing included.

According to Panera’s findings, 50 percent of the top fast-casual restaurants use “eggs” that contain five or more ingredients.

Unfortunately, Panera’s new breakfast sandwiches are novel due to the fact that they contain a 100 percent real, cracked-to-order egg. Food for thought: The “egg” in Starbucks‘ breakfast sandwich contains 16 ingredients, Burger King’s contains 9, and Dunkin’ Donuts’ contains 10, according to research from Panera, which has carved out a niche for itself as a “healthier” fast-casual food company.

Because brands can use the generic term “egg,” they can pretty much do whatever they want with the ingredient in order to boost the flavor of their sandwiches, including using thickening additives like gums, fake butter flavors, and added colors. In fact, according to Panera’s findings, 50 percent of the top fast-casual restaurants use “eggs” that contain five or more ingredients.

“Panera and our competitors use the FDA definitions to guide our product descriptions and names,”
said Sara Burnett, Panera’s director of wellness and food policy, in a press release. “But in the case of ‘eggs,’ we have no guidance. Brands can say they offer an egg sandwich but sell an egg product that contains multiple additives.”

Until this whole fake egg thing gets figured out across the board, maybe just stick with a tofu scramble? Or, better yet, make a concerted effort meet your meal-prep goals.

Try these healthy beauty-boosting breakfast recipes. Or, find out what wellness pros eat for breakfast while they’re traveling.