Panera Know-No List — Part II: Meet the Ingredients

Panera, among other food companies, has announced a commitment to removing certain ingredients from their products. While many in the food science industry have mixed feelings about this decision, this is an opportunity to help consumers understand what is in their food (and why).

At the time of this post, there are numerous sites dedicated to presenting information on food ingredients, but some of those sites seem more about fear than food science. There have been several insightful articles on Panera’s initiative [See Related Reading, below, for my favorites], but to date, no site has accumulated the credible information and assembled it to directly correspond to the ingredients on the Panera No No List. Until now.

For each ingredient on Panera’s list, I’ve* collected the pertinent information about why that ingredient is used in food in the first place. For each ingredient, you’ll find a brief explanation of its purpose, safety concerns if any, and whether a natural counterpart can perform as well or better.

*This list has been a collaborative effort, and I thank all who have helped me compile this information. See “FOR MORE INFO” for resources and contact me on Twitter @GreenEyedGuide for the opportunity to join them in completing and improving this project.

[The official Panera No No List is available here; replicated below.]

Acesulfame K (Acesulfame Potassium or “Ace-K”)
Alum (Aluminum Ammonium Sulfate/Aluminium Potassium Sulfate)
Aluminum Calcium Silicate/Bentonite
(Calcium Aluminosilicate, Calcium
Silicoaluminate, Sodium Calcium Silicoaluminate)
Ammonium Chloride
Artificial Colors
(Synthetic and Certified FD&C)
Artificial Flavors
Autolyzed Yeast Extract
Azo Dyes
Benzoic Acid
Benzyl Alcohol/Benzoyl Peroxide
(Synthetic only)
(Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
(Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Bromated Flour
Brominated Vegetable Oil
(Added, not naturally occurring)
Calcium Bromate
Calcium Peroxide
Calcium Sorbate
Caramel Color
(Classes II-IV)
Carboxymethyl Cellulose
(Diacetyl Tartaric Acid)
Dipotassium SulfateDisodium Guanylate
Disodium Inosinate
(Calcium Disodium EDTA/Disodium
Dihydrogen EDTA)
Esters of Fatty Acids
Fat Substitutes
(Sucrose Polyester, Microparticulated
Whey Protein Concentrate)
FD&C Colors
(Mono & Diglycerides, all forms)
Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Hydrogenated Starch
Hydrolyzed Soy or Corn Protein
Monosodium Glutamate/
Sodium Glutamate
(Added MSG, not naturally occuring)
(Added, not naturally occuring)
Parabens (all)
Partially Hydrogenated Oils
/Artificial Trans Fat
Polysorbates (all)
Potassium Benzoate
Potassium Bisulfate
Potassium Bromate
Potassium Lactate
Potassium Sorbate
(Calcium, Sodium)
Propyl Gallate
Propylene Glycol
Propylene Glycol Alginate
(Calcium Saccharin)
(Methyl Silicon, Dimethylpolysiloxane)
Artificial Smoke Flavor
Sodium Benzoate
Sodium Diacetate
Sodium Erythorbate
Sodium Lactate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Metabisulfite
Sodium Phosphate/
Trisodium Phosphate
Stannous Chloride
(Added, not naturally occurring)
Sulfur Dioxide
Tertiary Butylhydroquinone
(Added, not naturally occurring)
Titanium Dioxide
Triacetin/Glycerol Triacetate

Part II of V – Sugars and Alternative Sweeteners

Acesulfame K, Acesulfame potassium, or “Ace-K”

  • PURPOSE: Low-calorie sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar, often used in combination with other low-calorie sweeteners to enhance taste of food products like baked goods, frozen desserts, beverages and dessert mixes
  • SAFETY NOTES: Has been used around the world for 15 years; used in the US since 1988
  • FOR MORE INFO: IFIC Food Insight’sEverything You Need to Know About Ace-K



  • PURPOSE: Low-calories sweetener made from two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid; 200 times sweeter than sugar, often used in confections, desserts, canned fruits and dressings
  • SAFETY NOTES: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently published an opinion on aspartame safety (spoiler: deemed safe),
  • FOR MORE INFO: Compound Interest has published a thoroughly informative infographic, which I cannot praise strongly enough, reviewing the chemistry and safety of Aspartame.
Compound Interest on Aspartame

Read the whole article and see the infographic in full at

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

  • PURPOSE: Invented in 1960, fructose syrups start out as plain corn or potato syrup and go through an enzymatic conversion that converts some of the glucose sugars into fructose sugars (glucose is the simplest sugar; fructose is glucose, slightly rearranged in the way you might rearrange a Mr Potato Head). Since fructose is slightly sweeter than glucose (thanks the rearrangement, which is more easily detected by sweetness receptors), less total syrup is needed to get the same sweetness sensation. ***NOTE: Sucrose (table sugar) is 50/50 glucose and fructose; HFCS has the same approximate sweetness to sugar and are usually around 55/45 glucose and fructose (yep, there’s more glucose than fructose in HFCS)
  • SAFETY NOTES: Studies comparing high fructose corn syrup and sucrose consumption in men and women have found no significant differences in outcome measures of metabolism (Am J Clin Nutr)
  • FOR MORE INFO: One of the most entertaining scientific papers I’ve ever read is by John White; FREE ACCESS in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Hydrogenated Starch

  • PURPOSE:  Hydrogenated starches are common sugar alcohols. “Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. They are carbohydrates with a chemical structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol, but they don’t contain ethanol as alcoholic beverages do.” – FROM IFIC Food Insight Sugar Alcohols Fact Sheet
  • BENEFIT OVER NATURAL COUNTER-PART: Unlike high-intensity sweeteners like Stevia or Aspartame, sugar alcohols can provide similar bulk/mouth-feel as regular sugar.
  • SAFETY NOTES: The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recommends to cut back on hydrogenated starches because they aren’t completely absorbed (which is why they’re less calories than sugar), but, “As with most sugar alcohols, eating significant amounts of HSH may cause intestinal gas and diarrhea.”
  • FOR MORE INFO: See this review of polyols from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)


  • PURPOSE: Neotame is Aspartame that’s been modified to be 7,000 – 8,000 times (!!!) as sweet as sugar
  • SAFETY NOTES: CSPI put Aspartame in the “Avoid” category, but put Neotame in the “Safe” category.  Neotame was approved by the U.S. FDA in 2002 and the European Union in 2010, but is still rarely used.
  • FOR MORE INFO: IFIC Food Insight’s “Facts About Low-Calorie Sweeteners”


  • PURPOSE: The first alternative sweetener, 300 times as sweet as sugar
  • SAFETY NOTES: (when rats get fed WAY too many cans of soda, it’s a fascinating turn of events) CSPI put Saccharin in the “Avoid” category, and notes:
  • FOP MORE INFO: CSPI on Sacchrin


  • PURPOSE: Sucralose is a sugar molecule that’s been slightly tweaked so our bodies don’t absorb as many calories from it; it’s 600x sweet as sugar, and unlike most of the alternative sweeteners above, Sucralose (“Splenda”) can be used in baking without it breaking down; It’s used in baked goods, desserts, dairy products, canned fruits, syrups and condiments – FROM IFIC Food InsightEverything You Need to Know About Sucralose
  • SAFETY NOTES: Approved by FDA in 1998, and it’s considered safe by government/regulatory agencies worldwide; CSPI puts this in the “Caution” category
  • FOR MORE INFO: IFIC Food Insight “Everything You Need to Know About Sucralose


Companies should not be criticized for making clean-label commitments like this. However, consumers would benefit much more from moves like this if the companies are more transparent about WHY each ingredient is coming out, and what that ingredient was doing in the food in the first place.


Here & NowDoes Removing Artificial Ingredients Mean Healthier Food?

John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State University, talks with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti about what these additives are, and why more and more companies have been making moves to eliminate them in foods.

Science Meets FoodRenouncing Pronounce-ability

It’s important to ask questions about your food, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid of it.


Response Part I to Panera’s No-No List

Energy Drink of the Month — May2015 Celsius

Based on recalls, litigation, adverse event reports, and consumer complaints, some of the riskiest product categories are energy drinks, weight-loss supplements and sexual health products. If you thought energy drinks got a lot of scrutiny in the press and by politicians, just image the pressure for a product that is both an energy drink and a weight loss supplement.  For those on quests to become more informed consumers, examining such a product is a wonderful, often enlightening exercise.  Moreover, May is the perfect month to examine such a product for two reasons: students are more likely to try new caffeinated products as they try to cram for finals; and figure-conscious individuals may be more likely to try a product they believe will help them reclaim their beach-ready body for summer. A product that is both an energy drink and a weight-loss product fulfills both types of curiosity.

The Energy Drink of the Month for May 2015 is Celsius Raspberry Acai Green Tea.


THREE-SIXTY DEGREES CELSIUS — Honest Product Review from Food Scientist, Gym Rat, Caffeine Aficionado


  1. One whole can is one whole serving. That makes it easier to understand EXACTLY what you’re getting and how much of it. No Portion-Distortion here.
  2. Though caffeine is part of the “Meta-Plus Proprietary Blend”, the amount of total caffeine IS stated on the can. One serving is one can, which offers 200 mg caffeine. This amount of caffeine is the maximum amount recognized safe as a single dose, according to European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Opinion on Caffeine Safety. According to this study, 200mg doses don’t raise safety concerns even when consumed less than two hours before intense exercise.
    ***Note that healthy adults can have up to 400mg caffeine per day, and also please note it is never recommended to “chug” your energy drink [See Duh-Alert: AHA says chugging caffeine is bad for the heart]
  3. The amounts of vitamins aren’t crazy. I roll my eyes when I see mega-doses of Vitamin B12 (which doesn’t actually do anything unless you’re deficient), or any fortification with Vitamin B5 (which is in almost every food group imaginable so there’s no need to fortify). Some supplements go a little overboard with Vitamin B3, but over 35mg of this can make some people flush and itchy. The B-vitamins are water-soluble, but that doesn’t mean that more is better.

    Celsius Raspberry Acai Green Tea GreenEyedGuide

    Product Claims

  4. The product claims highlight the ways this product is different from the energy drink stereotype. Even their Warning Statement is grammatically correct: “Not recommended for people who are caffeine sensitive, children under 12, or women pregnant or nursing.” I can’t help but chuckle when I read a Warning Statement that says, “Consult with a healthcare professional if you are pregnant.” Gee, thanks for the tip, but I was going to ride these 9 months doctor-free and deliver in a bathtub. In contrast to the warning statement which offers general health advice and cannot be read literally, Celsius’s statement actually refers to the product.
  5.  The label makes it very obvious this product does not magically make your fat disappear. Celsius is your workout buddy, your “Ultimate Fitness Partner”, and it’s made clear in the side-panel Marketing blurb the product doesn’t work if you’re not exercising.


  1. The words “clinically proven” makes me raise my eyebrows as a scientist. It’s actually rather difficult to clinically prove anything related to weight-loss because there’s always confounding factors. In this case, the increased metabolism, reduced body fat, and improved endurance are typical results of studies that make people exercise, especially if any type of caffeine is involved. It’s common knowledge caffeine improves athletic performance, but the magnitude of those improvements depend on whether the person is an athlete or a gym rat; an occasional coffee drinker or a coffee/tea-holic.
  2. The front of the can says, “Your Calorie-Reducing drink” and yet there is a supplement facts panel. A product is not allowed to have a supplement facts panel if it is referred to as a “drink” or beverage. If it is truly a drink, it must have a “Nutrition Facts” panel, while supplements need a “Supplement Facts” panel and have different regulations for the fact panel layout and content. This may not seem like a big deal, but there are countless FDA Warning letters to companies that demonstrate this product-category confusion.
  3. This product always dries my mouth out. This astringent effect is common with certain tannins in tea and Premium Brewed Green Tea is a predominant ingredient. Ginger root extract may also affect some people this way.
  4. While the amount of caffeine is stated, there are other components of the “Meta-Plus Proprietary Blend” that I would prefer to see itemized. For instance, how much taurine and green tea leaf extract? How much ginger root? The missing amounts don’t concern me as a consumer, but knowing those amounts would fascinate me as a scientist.
  5. Again, the diction grammar bothers me. The side panel of this product says “Celsius burns up to 100 extra calories and more.” How can you burn UP TO 100 calories AND MORE? Which one is it? Also, the expression “calorie reducing” isn’t exactly the same thing as burning calories, but Celsius, the “calorie reducing drink” is supposed to help one burn more calories. Add in the fact that a calorie is a unit measuring energy and the “calorie reducing drink” that gives one “lasting energy”, and we’ve got QUITE THE PARADOX!


Overall this is not my favorite product, but it’s one that I do enjoy from time to time. Since it’s not carbonated, it’s less likely to upset my stomach if I drink it en route to my morning workout. There is a decent kick from the caffeine, but as a science-nerd I get just as big a kick out of reading the label. There’s nothing wrong with the ingredients but the caffeine may be strong for some people. If this product and its calorie-reducing promises help you commit to going to the gym instead of going home or sleeping in, then it can be a great product to try at least once!


— Green-Eyed Guide


Related Reading and Other Links

For more caffeine and energy drink information, don’t forget to find your copy of

ARE YOU A MONSTER OR A ROCK STAR? A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

Energy drinks explained: ingredients, safety tips and consumption tricks. 


Response Part I to Panera’s No-No List

Panera publishes a list of ingredients it will not use, but something important is missing from their list.

As reported by Food Business News:

Panera Bread is the latest company to jump on the clean label bandwagon. The company announced May 5 the publication of its “No No List” of ingredients that will not be used to formulate its products. – From Panera publishes ‘no no list’ of ingredients it will not use” by Keith Nunes (click here to read full article)

Maybe they will achieve a “transparent menu” as expressed by Mr. Ron Shaich, founder and chief executive officer. HOWEVER, I believe consumers would benefit much more from this if Panera was scientifically transparent about WHY each ingredient was coming out. Instead of providing a list of ingredients and building the stigma around them, how about a short statement about what that ingredient is, what food science function it holds, and why it is deemed no longer necessary.

Without such explanation, this list is just another source of ambiguous diet advice based on fear. Looking at their list (available here), I can agree with some of their decision for removal. Yet other ingredients strike me as odd inclusions. What good is a clean label if you can’t also come clean about why certain ingredients had to go?

Perhaps I’ll take it upon myself (with the help of my favorite dietitians, culinologists, and fellow food scientists) to provide such a supplement to Panera’s list…

Stay tuned for Part II.

— Green-Eyed Guide

Related Posts:

Fear and FACTS — Food Science and Consumer Perception

How the ‘Natural’ Fixation is Creating Food Waste; and How the Superfood Fixation is Solving It

Case Study on Chemophobia — An Ingredient by Ingredient Review of Swish 4 Energy