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Panera Removes Dyes, Additives from Foods

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

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By Flickr user bk

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. It also makes sense for Panera to get rid of partially hydrogenated oils, butylated hydroxyanisole, and some of the other additives on the company’s new “No No” list.

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.

Panera should have made clear that these improvements won’t happen at the soda fountain. Presumably the high-fructose corn syrup or the poorly tested sweetener acesulfame potassium will remain in the Pepsi and Diet Pepsi it sells; the same goes for the Yellow 5, the calcium disodium EDTA, and the brominated vegetable oil in its Mountain Dew. And, of course, if what you’re having at Panera is a 1,000-calorie panini with a day’s worth of sodium, or a 460-calorie soda, food additives should be the least of your concern. 

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).