Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr
On the heels of Kraft’s declaration that it would drop artificial coloring from its products, Panera announced Tuesday that it would nix at least 150 artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, and preservatives from its menu, detailed on its so-called “no no list.” It made us wonder: What are all of these ingredients?
We scanned the web for trusted sources to explain. Below are a few:
Propylene glycol. According to The Wall Street Journal, it’s a “preservative used in consumer products as diverse as deodorant and electronic cigarettes.” The salad and sandwich chain used it in its Greek salad dressing.
Acesulfame K. The artificial sweetener, also called acesulfame potassium, is roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar, according to The Center for Science in the Public Interest. The nonprofit advocacy group recommends that consumers avoid it because of potential cancer risks. It’s used to sweeten Diet Pepsi, although Panera has stated it will not alter the sodas it serves.
Ethoxyquin. Internet searches of this preservative turn up page after page of sites decrying its use in dog food. According to the FDA, several dog owners filed reports in the 1990s “attributing the presence of ethoxyquin in the dog food with a myriad of adverse effects, such as allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems, and cancer.” The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine could not determine if it was true, but nonetheless asked the pet food industry to voluntarily lower the maximum amount of ethoxyquin used in its products. The Panera dishes in which ethoxyquin is present is unclear.
Artificial smoke flavor. The flavoring, often called liquid smoke, gives items such as Panera’s chicken Caesar salad and Italian combo sandwich their smokiness. Though it’s unclear what brand Panera uses, Serious Eats explains that liquid smoke is actually made with smoke, which means that it contains carcinogens. That said, “modern manufacturers reportedly filter most of these out, and it’s generally considered safe to use in moderation.”
Titanium dioxide. Panera uses this whitening agent to brighten the cheese on its tomato mozzarella flatbreads and lighten some pastries, cupcakes, and cookies. It’s also used in many sunscreens. Some studies suggest that it can cause inflammation, and in 2006 the World Health Organization classified it as a potential human carcinogen. All things said, it’s still unclear what, if any, health effects are associated with consuming titanium dioxide.
Interestingly, some familiar ingredients are on the list: caffeine, aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG), lard, and saccharin. Also out? Azodicarbonamide, the bleaching agent that’s also used to make yoga mats, which caused an uproar last year when reports emerged that it was an ingredient in Subway bread.
Below, take a gander at Panera’s “no no list,” which details about half of the total ingredients to be pulled. Despite all the hubbub, it’s still unclear if any of them are actually harmful. But that’s not Panera’s motivation.
“I’m not a scientist and I’m not wading into the debate over whether any of these things cause cancer or are otherwise bad for you,” Panera chief executive Ron Schaich told The New York Times. “I just think this is where the consumer’s head is right now.”