Restaurants are removing artificial ingredients, but what does that really mean?

In what is in-arguably a positive trend for chain restaurants, more natural ingredients (over artificial ingredients) are making a strong push towards prominence. McDonalds has recently made a big push towards natural, fresh chicken and Panera has removed a selection of additives from their products. One could argue these moves are all responses to Chipotle’s positioning as the healthier, more tasty option in the fast-casual field. Chipotle is famous for their claim of fresh, organic ingredients and responsibly raised meats. While many ingredients that are being cut from menus are safe at the levels they are presented at, the perception of healthier food is key to marketing to an emerging fickle millennial demographic.

From a health perspective, if this leads to a higher quality meal, ingredients and less questionable industrial production, it’s a win for consumers based on that alone. Industrial meat production has been accused of promoting overcrowded, unsanitary conditions with a high amount of antibiotic use as a preventative measure for livestock. That has been linked by some to antibiotic resistant bacterias. But, it’s important for customers to remember that artificial ingredients does not automatically mean more unsafe or toxic. Toxicity is based on doses, and as any chemist will tell you, it’s all about the dose. The levels present in food are commonly benign. But, if kids grow up demanding a higher quality chicken or beef, it can only serve them well on that basis alone by promoting healthy attitudes.

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