Food additives: who is promising what?

Manufacturers and food additives

Food is changing rapidly. In 2015, more than ten major food manufacturers and restaurants made public commitments to reduce or eliminate artificial flavors and colors from their brands. In 2019, virtually every major retailer, chain restaurant, and national food manufacturer is rethinking — and revising — at least the flavors, colors, and preservatives they allow in their foods.

The drivers behind these announcement range from FDA notices to growing public concerns about specific additives and demands for improved transparency.

With so much movement in the marketplace, we decided to keep and make available a tally of the public commitments made by grocersrestaurants and food manufacturers on food additives.

As more companies revisit their policies and practices, EDF is sharing a Blueprint for Safer Food that helps businesses achieve leadership in this space. Building consumer confidence and securing true leadership involves going beyond just what is legal towards policies that promote continuous improvement.

Food packaging may also contain chemicals of concern that can contaminate food although food packaging is not often addressed in public policies. EDF recommends consulting the “Food Packaging Product Stewardship Considerations” published by the Institute of Packaging Professionals in March 2018 for additional information on eliminating or minimizing a long list of chemicals of concern in packaging.

Please let us know if you have any suggestions to improve the list — especially if we have missed a company.

Grocers - national and regional

(in chronological order)

Products affectedAdditives removed or bannedDate of commitmentEffective date
Whole Foods
All products> 75 artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and questionable ingredients19801980
Trader Joe’s
Private labelArtificial flavors, preservatives and colors, MSG, and artificial trans-fat20072007
Private label> 140 ingredients20082008
Albertsons (Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs)
Select private label> 110 ingredients including antibiotics, nitrates, sulfites, benzoates and MSG-type ingredients20112011
Select private label> 100 artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and questionable ingredients20122012
Private label; children’s private label food> 100 ingredients including artificial colors, flavors and preservatives2013 / revised 20172013 / revised 2018
Select private label> 125 artificial ingredients and preservatives20142014
Select private label> 120 artificial ingredients including flavors, colors and preservatives20152016
Ahold Delhaize (Food Lion, Giant Food, Giant/Martin’s, Hannaford, Peapod, Stop & Shop)
All synthetic colors; artificial flavors, preservatives and sweeteners; MSGs; high fructose corn syrup2016 / revised 20182025
Select private label>200 synthetic ingredients, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors20162016
Private Label>110 ingredients including artificial additives, flavors and preservatives20162016
Select private labelSynthetic colors and artificial flavors2016Ongoing
Select private label>200 artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals20172018

Restaurants – national and regional

Products affectedAdditives removed or bannedDate of commitmentEffective date
Food it makesOnly uses a narrow list of ingredients that excludes artificial flavors and colors1993Ongoing
Food it makes> 100 artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and other unnecessary ingredients2014>2015
Selected sandwiches, soft-serve desserts, and McNuggetsArtificial flavors, colors and preservatives2014Ongoing
Pizza Hut
Nationally available pizzasBHA/BHT, artificial preservatives, artificial flavors and colors2015Ongoing
Taco Bell
Food it makesArtificial colors, flavors, preservatives and other additives2015 / revised 2019Ongoing
Papa John’s
Pizza it makesArtificial flavors, colors, preservatives and sweeteners, and questionable ingredients20152016
Sandwiches, salads and soupsArtificial flavors, colors and preservatives20152017
Noodles & Company
Core menu itemsArtificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners and other unnecessary ingredients20152015
Dunkin’ Brands (Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Baskin-Robbins)
Food and beverages in the U.S.Synthetic colors20172017
Smoothie King
SmoothiesAdded sugar and artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors20172019

Food manufacturers – national

Products affectedAdditives removed or bannedDate of commitmentEffective date
Most chocolate brandsArtificial flavors, preservatives and sweeteners20152015
Chocolate candy, some beverages, and frozen pizza and snacksArtificial flavor and colors (chocolate candy), Artificial flavors and colors (some beverages), Artificial flavor (frozen pizza and snacks)2015 Feb, April, June2015 December
Kraft Heinz
Selected branded foodsArtificial preservatives, ingredients, and flavors2015 / updated 20172017
General Mills
All foodsArtificial flavors, preservatives, and colors from artificial sources2015 / revised 2016> 50% as of 2017
Select branded cereals, snack foods and frozen foodsArtificial flavors and colors2015Ongoing
Select key brands and new snack crackersArtificial flavors and colors20152020
Panera at Home
Branded packaged foods>> 100 artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and other unnecessary ingredients20162016
North American productsArtificial flavors and colors20162018
All productsArtificial colors20162021
Select Consumer Food productsArtificial flavors, synthetic colors and artificial preservatives2016Ongoing

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