Chemist Derek Lowe: Panera Bread spreads misinformation on chemicals and food—yet again

Panera Cares Cafe

[Editor’s note: Derek Lowe is a Duke University-trained organic chemist.]

[S]everal people alerted me to one of the latest ads in Panera Bread’s long-running campaign to convince everyone that their food is chock-full of wholesome goodness. This one takes off after sodium benzoate, and there are little Twitter and Instagram animations talking about how this icky stuff belongs in fireworks, not in your Panera food, right, guys?

The source for this would have to be this paper from 2008, which analyzed a long list of beverages for benzene contamination, and found that the only detectable levels were in carrot juice intended for infants.

The first idiotic part of this, as the chemists are well aware, is that in foods that contain benzoic acid, a goodly fraction of it is already present as the benzoate anion.

Benzoic acid is found (as a completely natural metabolite and intermediate) in a huge variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables – berries are particularly high in it, but it’s also found in aromatic spices such as cinnamon and allspice. …[I]t is found in seafood, and in milk, particularly in fermented milk products such as completely natural, non-GMO yogurt….

[A] goodly number of Panera’s menu items – such as all the ones with cheese, and all the ones with berries – contain plenty of sodium benzoate already, in some proportion with benzoic acid. It’s stupid and disingenuous of them to pretend that they’re protecting their customers from evil industrial chemicals, when the same stuff is found in their own ingredients.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Sodium Benzoate Nonsense

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