Pay attention to microbial food safety, that’s what makes people barf: Whole Foods and now Panera, back with the pseudoscience

The gang at Don’t eat the Pseudoscience have taken a well-deserved shot at Panera.

But they can tell their own story (tone it down on the use of exclamation marks; let the reader decide what is truly exclamatory).

land-of-cleanBetween tromping through Baguette Falls while whacking out azodicarbonamide, glycerides, artificial colors, and artificial flavors (i.e. amyl alcohol and benzaldehyde), and gallivanting around Crisp Valley Farms spotting the unwanted “No-Nos” trespassing on the property (i.e. hydrolyzed protein, polydextrose, MSG, and sodium erythorbate), Panera Bread continues its pursuit in educating consumers on the perils of “artificial” food additives and preservatives while feeding the pseudoscience madness in a cute new game. Of course, don’t forget the unusual/artificial “alien” sounds accompanying the destruction of each chemical. Luckily for the consumer, upon winning and defeating the awful droves of supposedly detrimental and awful food additions, one wins a coupon.

Panera Bread LLC introduced its “No-No List” in 2015 in an effort to be more transparent and to provide clean menu options. Complete with a video campaign, and now the “Land of Clean” game, the list focuses on chemicals and hard-to-pronounce additives that consumers find unfriendly at a glance. For example, the No-No list currently contains compounds like MSG, autolyzed yeast extract, and glycerides. Additionally, the list has previously contained common chemicals like tocopherol (it’s actually Vitamin E) and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). As a response to this misleading philosophy, we at Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience also came out with our own video to explain why these chemicals aren’t bad and how they already naturally occur in your food products.

Panera’s vision for transparency and healthfulness, while laudable, creates its own set of flaws by promoting pseudoscience through instilling fear of complex words in consumers. These changes and deletions of ingredients do not necessarily reflect positive, healthier options. A quick glance at Panera’s menu reveals some items that are not only rather high in calories – per serving – but may also approach one’s daily limits of sodium, saturated fat, and total fat. A few examples: a panini that is 1,040 kcal per serving with 46 grams of fat (out of 65g / day); another sandwich has 18g of saturated fat (out of 20g/day). Damn Panera…way to continue spreading the pseudoscience.

Got raw egg in those salad dressings? Panera’s head chef says go back to basics

Every time a rock and roll band I’ve previously liked but haven’t liked so much lately says, we’ve gone back to our roots, we’re back to basics with this new album, I know it will suck.

It’s like saying, trust me. If you have to say it, you you’re not trustworthy.

So when the head chef of Panera Bread Co. says they’ve started making their salad dressing in house because “we have a pantry of ingredients that are wholesome and clean,” I wonder, has this so-called chef ever heard of salmonella-in-pepper? Raw eggs? Is this another Chipotle waiting to happen?

Dan Kish, head chef and senior vice-president of food at St. Louis-based bakery-cafe company Panera, said it was a big deal when the 2,000-strong chain began serving salads with a green goddess dressing made in-house.

“Being a big company, you have someone else make your salad dressings for you because that’s what big companies do, and they do it really efficiently and the specs are right on, and, man, is it cheap. But two weeks ago, we started making our green goddess dressing in-house because I said, ‘If you can make a smoothie, you can make a dressing.’ It’s not as easy as it sounds, of course, but we have a pantry of ingredients that are wholesome and clean.”

Mr. Kish discussed Panera Bread’s disruptive strategies during a panel presentation at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, held May 21-24 in Chicago. About a year ago, the chain published its No No List of ingredients that will not be used to formulate its products, including colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners from artificial sources. The company committed to removing these ingredients from its menu items by the end of 2016.

Is Salmonella on your no-no list? How about E. coli? Norovirus?

“Our customers didn’t have a problem with our dressing,” he said. “They didn’t even have a problem with artificial preservatives, necessarily… but we think the future is in eating better, and if I had to hitch my wagon to anything, I would want to be making better food and not mediocre food. I would want to make it accessible because this notion of accessibility, affordability and convenience (in fast-food), none of that has changed.”

Though the decision to convert Panera’s entire menu to simple ingredients initially “dropped a lot of jaws inside the company,” he said, the initiative fit within the brand’s core values.

“We didn’t have to change who we are,” Mr. Kish said. “All we had to do was just think a little more deeply about what that means in today’s terms and for today’s customer and today’s economics, and the answer sort of popped up. So this notion of knowing who you are and staying true to that is really the key.”

Through the process, he added, Panera’s food safety standards have remained as stringent as ever. “Because, trust me, unsafe clean food can be a really bad thing for everyone.”

There’s that trust me thing.

Epidemiology links to Panera in Jersey norovirus outbreak; spokesperson highlights that staff weren’t ill

Food safety is about trust. Good processing, retail and food service companies choose suppliers that they trust – and sometimes that includes demonstrating they can manage risks during some sort of an audit or inspection.
Patrons choose food based on a whole bunch of things like price, taste, ethical philosophy and trust that they aren’t going to get sick — with not all that much safety information to go on.

In most jurisdictions, selling food means meeting some sort of licensing/inspection requirement. In better locales health authorities tell people about how individuals managed food safety the last time someone checked – and post the results online or in the window (even better if they have QR codes). I had coffee with a colleague last week and he asked me about North Carolina’s grade posting system. I said I liked the dialogue and interest it generates but that it’s hard to make a decision based on the sign – there are lots of limitations. I can’t tell whether the business lost points because of a bunch of little things like broken tiles or no hot water in the handwashing sinks (that I don’t really care about) or whether someone showed up to work barfing (which I do care about).

He just said, "I don’t eat at Jersey Mike’s because of the grade posting. They had a 94 (relatively low in NC -ben) for a couple of months."

Having poor inspection results can affect patrons’ trust – so can outbreaks.

In Jersey, land of Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Snooki and Jwow and Princeton, NJ health folks have pointed to a Mercer County Panera Bread outlet as one of the potential spots where a January 2012 norovirus outbreak was spread. According to Samantha Costa of The Times, Panera was reported as a common spot that a bunch of the ill college kids ate.

During the peak of the norovirus outbreak at colleges here this winter, as many as 150 Princeton University students could have been exposed to the illness at a local eatery, public health officials said this week.The virus that sickened more than 400 students at colleges and universities throughout Mercer County may have been spread through many venues, but health officials in Princeton suspect many Princeton University cases originated at Panera Bread on Nassau Street. In late January, the health department removed five workers in the restaurant from food handling after discovering that many students with the illness had eaten there.

“There might have been upwards of 150 different students, and there was no realistic way to get a total number of food histories on those students,” Princeton Regional Health Department Director David Henry said. All of those students had eaten at Panera, but there were many other potential sources of the virus that also may have been involved, health officials said.

Jackie Brenne, a spokeswoman for Panera, said that despite the precautions, “no Panera associates were found to be ill. Panera managers did review safety and illness policies with all cafe associates.”The health department report said inspector Randy Carter spent about an hour at Panera Bread, tracking down the food histories of where students ate and listed common foods they ate at Panera Bread to rule out salmonella (not sure why Salmonella was focused on here? -ben).

However, the students’ eating habits pointed to many retail food establishments, the report said.“In those particular cases, we can’t label or narrow it down to one or two food establishments. It was a community outbreak and Panera and some of the other places just ended up being victims of the norovirus,” Henry said. “We don’t know the one place. All we know is when we have a situation we have to contain it.”Nassau Street is frequented by many Princeton University and Rider University students alike, the department said. Rider’s Westminster Choir College campus is in Princeton.


‘Multiple little failures add up’ and cause outbreaks

This is a food safety story with no dead bodies, no sick people, and a company responding appropriately to questions raised by inspectors.

Mike Hughlett writes in tomorrow’s Chicago Tribune today that,

When food-safety inspectors called on Panera Bread Co.’s Chicago dough plant earlier this year, they found a host of manufacturing deficiencies.

For instance, a worker was spotted welding near a batch of bread dough — a contamination risk — while some dough was observed in dirty containers.

Panera’s records also indicated that in just over a year, the Chicago plant, which makes bread dough for 124 outlets in four states, fielded 10 complaints from consumers who had found foreign objects, mostly metal, in their food, including a washer discovered in a whole-grain bagel. …

The lesson is: Deviations from good manufacturing practices, which are at issue at Panera’s plant, often are at the heart of food-safety fiascoes. Companies either learn from the errors, as Panera said it did, or the risk increases that the next incident will be more serious.

Doug Powell, a food safety expert at Kansas State University, said,

"It’s multiple little failures that add up; these are warning signs.”

Martin Cole, who heads the Illinois Institute of Technology’s National Center for Food Safety and Technology agreed, adding,

such failures are "fairly common, I’m afraid."

Food safety on the road: Bite Me ’09 tour

Amy, Sorenne and I (right, not exactly as shown) started out this morning on our Spring Food Safety Speaking Tour – Bite Me ’09.

First stop is North Carolina State in Raleigh, but it’s 1,200 miles from an apparently snow-covered Manhattan (Kansas) and, with a three-month-old in tow, the stops are frequent.

One of those stops was at a Panera Bread in Columbia, Missouri. The restaurant rated an A according to the sign in the window (below, left) but when I went to the bathroom, the toilet handle was broken and wouldn’t flush. And I really should have flushed.