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 affected Additives removed or banned Date of commitment Effective date
Whole Foods
All products > 75 artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and questionable ingredients 1980 1980
Trader Joe’s
Private label Artificial flavors, preservatives and colors, MSG, and artificial trans-fat 2007 2007
Private label > 140 ingredients 2008 2008
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 ingredients 2011 2011
Select private label > 100 artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and questionable ingredients 2012 2012
Private label; children’s private label food > 100 ingredients including artificial colors, flavors and preservatives 2013 / revised 2017 2013 / revised 2018
Select private label > 125 artificial ingredients and preservatives 2014 2014
Select private label > 120 artificial ingredients including flavors, colors and preservatives 2015 2016
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 syrup 2016 / revised 2018 2025
Select private label >200 synthetic ingredients, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors 2016 2016
Private Label >110 ingredients including artificial additives, flavors and preservatives 2016 2016
Select private label Synthetic colors and artificial flavors 2016 Ongoing
Select private label >200 artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals 2017 2018

Restaurants – national and regional

Products affected Additives removed or banned Date of commitment Effective date
Food it makes Only uses a narrow list of ingredients that excludes artificial flavors and colors 1993 Ongoing
Food it makes > 100 artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and other unnecessary ingredients 2014> 2015
Selected sandwiches, soft-serve desserts, and McNuggets Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives 2014 Ongoing
Pizza Hut
Nationally available pizzas BHA/BHT, artificial preservatives, artificial flavors and colors 2015 Ongoing
Taco Bell
Food it makes Artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and other additives 2015 / revised 2019 Ongoing
Papa John’s
Pizza it makes Artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and sweeteners, and questionable ingredients 2015 2016
Sandwiches, salads and soups Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives 2015 2017
Noodles & Company
Core menu items Artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners and other unnecessary ingredients 2015 2015
Dunkin’ Brands (Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Baskin-Robbins)
Food and beverages in the U.S. Synthetic colors 2017 2017
Smoothie King
Smoothies Added sugar and artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors 2017 2019

Food manufacturers – national

Products affected Additives removed or banned Date of commitment Effective date
Most chocolate brands Artificial flavors, preservatives and sweeteners 2015 2015
Chocolate candy, some beverages, and frozen pizza and snacks Artificial flavor and colors (chocolate candy), Artificial flavors and colors (some beverages), Artificial flavor (frozen pizza and snacks) 2015 Feb, April, June 2015 December
Kraft Heinz
Selected branded foods Artificial preservatives, ingredients, and flavors 2015 / updated 2017 2017
General Mills
All foods Artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors from artificial sources 2015 / revised 2016 > 50% as of 2017
Select branded cereals, snack foods and frozen foods Artificial flavors and colors 2015 Ongoing
Select key brands and new snack crackers Artificial flavors and colors 2015 2020
Panera at Home
Branded packaged foods> > 100 artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners, and other unnecessary ingredients 2016 2016
North American products Artificial flavors and colors 2016 2018
All products Artificial colors 2016 2021
Select Consumer Food products Artificial flavors, synthetic colors and artificial preservatives 2016 Ongoing

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