Panera Bread is petitioning the FDA to endorse a more specific definition for the word "egg." This petition was created after the chain released a new line of breakfast sandwiches featuring “100 percent real eggs” with no additives, fillers, or stabilizers, as opposed to many other fast food eggs.
The current FDA rule regarding egg labeling, which the Washington Post reports has been “on the books since at least 1977,” notes that “no regulation shall be promulgated” with regards to the definition of “the food commonly known as eggs.”
“Our industry would benefit from more guidance,” says Sara Burnett, director of wellness and food policy at Panera Bread, in a news release. “Brands can say they offer an egg sandwich, but sell an egg product that contains multiple additives.”
Today reports that both Starbucks and Burger King “eggs” contain fillers and stabilizers, including soybean oil, water, cornstarch, xanthan gum, powdered cellulose, and medium chain triglycerides. McDonald’s joins Panera Bread in serving real eggs on its Egg McMuffin, though liquid and pre-made eggs are featured in some of the chain’s other breakfast items.
“When a consumer orders an 'egg,' they expect to get an egg,” says Burnett. “I don’t think consumers understand these other products that have five or more ingredients.”
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Other chain restaurants, however, claim that consumers are well-informed of the contents of their egg products, with Taco Bell, for example, noting that it voluntarily provides ingredient information on its website, thus allowing consumers the ability to see exactly what each of the chain's menu items contain.
Experts say that the petition is unlikely to gain traction with the FDA.
“The agency generally moves pretty slowly on these issues, because they have other public health issues to deal with,” Mitchell Cheeseman, a former official in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, tells the Post. “It’s not a priority if it doesn’t have a public health consequence.”
Burnett, however, tells the outlet that even if the FDA does not change its stance on the word "egg," Panera Bread is proud to have started a conversation about what consumers expect a food labeled "egg" to contain.
Panera Bread has long been at the forefront of healthier changes within the world of fast food. In 2017, it became the first chain to list added sugar in beverages, and in 2016, it became the first restaurant to commit to using slow-growing chickens. Like many other fast food chains, Panera Bread has also made a cage-free egg commitment, with a 2020 deadline for compliance.
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