In an effort to change the obesity problem in America, more and more people are on a quest to eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle. Today the amount of people choosing to eat healthier is rising like a tidal wave and so are the profits of those companies willing to accommodate this healthier food choice. Chipotle Mexican Grill recently announced that their food has become GMO free at no additional cost, in support of their effort to provide high quality food to its customers. Not to be outmatched, Panera Bread has made a healthy change of their own.
Panera Bread is a chain restaurant that started out in 1981 as Au Bon Pain Co, Inc. and was founded by Louis Lane and Ron Shaich. It wasn't until 1999, after significant success, that the name changed at many locations to Panera Bread. Today Panera Bread has over 1,800 locations in 45 states, the District of Columbia and Ontario, Canada. Initially, Panera Bread was well known for its fresh baked breads, fresh cracked egg breakfasts and freshly prepared sandwiches. Subsequently, Panera started to go in the opposite direction, as the eggs became pre-cooked and the oatmeal would slide out of a plastic bag after being heated. But now, it would appear that Panera Bread has had a revelation and truly endeavors to provide healthier food for its customers.
Panera Bread has announced their commitment to eliminate all artificial preservatives, colorings, sweeteners and flavors in their food by the end of 2016. This includes dropping some 150 different ingredients from their menu items. According to Panera Bread, "We are committed to making a positive impact on our food system. We believe guests deserve to know not only what is in their food, but where it comes from and how companies are impacting the food system." Panera further stated, "If the ingredients in your food are unpronounceable we believe they shouldn't be in your food."
When asked why they haven't eliminated GMO's from their food, a Panera Bread representative explained, "GMO's are a tremendously complex issue due to their extensive reach into America's corn, soy and sugar supplies-ingredients and sub-ingredients in much of the food we eat. For Panera's menu... the task of identifying GMO's is additionally complex." The Panera representative continued by saying that they do however, support having a federal GMO label law so that people can at least know if GMO's are in the food they eat.
While eliminating artificial ingredients from their food is certainly commendable, it is difficult to understand why Panera Bread could not eliminate GMO's as well. Clearly, eliminating GMO's wasn't too "complicated" for Chipotle and they even did so at no additional cost to the consumer. In addition, while its nice that Panera Bread supports a federal GMO label law, that is not a valid excuse for failing to voluntarily label and identify GMO's in their food. Many companies have voluntarily labeled their foods GMO free, Whole Foods is in the process of implementing a store wide voluntary GMO label program and Trader Joe's maintains that all foods bearing their label are GMO free.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is clear that the American people are demanding a healthy change in our food system and restaurants are finally starting to respond to that demand. Years from now historians will look back in disbelief and question why we allowed the Biotech Industry, to effectively contaminate our food supply for as long as they did. The ostensible answer will be corporate greed, lust for power and the love of money.
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.