Panera Bread removes artificial ingredients from U.S. menu

The sign on the hood of a delivery truck for Panera Bread Co. is seen in Westminster, Colorado February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

(Reuters) - Bakery cafe operator Panera Bread Co said on Friday it had removed artificial ingredients from its food menu and Panera at Home products in the United States.

The company had said in August that by the year end it would remove artificial flavors and colors, preservatives and sweeteners from the food served at its 2,000 restaurants.

The additives removed include federally-approved artificial colors, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite and sodium phosphate, the company said.

St. Louis-based Panera said it had reformulated 122 ingredients, resulting in changes to most of its bakery-cafe recipes. It has also partnered with more than 300 food suppliers to replace ingredients and change preparation methods.

The company sells items such as bread, soup and coffee under its Panera at Home brand.

Restaurant chains — including McDonald’s Corp and Yum Brands Inc’s Pizza Hut — had committed last year to remove artificial preservatives from some of their ingredients and menu items.

Panera founder and Chief Executive Ron Shaich had criticized in August McDonald’s move to remove artificial preservatives from its chicken McNuggets as too incremental.

Reporting by Aravind K in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta