Subway is putting a new spin on its "Eat Fresh" motto, saying it will remove all artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from its North American menu by 2017.
The Milford, Conn.-based company announced the changes Thursday, adding the sandwich purveyor to a growing list of fast food eateries and other companies that have sworn off artificial ingredients in hopes of attracting more health-conscious customers.
Just last week, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut said they would use natural alternatives, like real black pepper instead of synthetic ingredients.
Elizabeth Stewart, director of corporate social responsibility, said the food improvement has been in progress at the chain for some time.
"We're really proud of all the work we've done," she said. "This is an ongoing thing for us."
She said the company will be changing the recipes for all of its products, and has already removed some artificial ingredients, like the caramel coloring in its nine-grain bread and roast beef.
Another example are the banana peppers, which will be colored with turmeric instead of Yellow No. 5 to "give it a more natural look," Stewart said.
She added that Subway will also take this initiative globally and has already started the food improvement process in all of its regions.
Subway has tried to tout its sandwiches as a healthier alternative to hamburgers, enlisting athletes like swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Nastia Liukin to appear in commercials over the years.
The chain came under fire last year when Food Babe blogger Vani Hari petitioned the company to remove azodicarbonamide, an ingredient used as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner, from its breads. Azodicarbonamide is also used to make yoga mats. Subway said it phased out the ingredient in April.
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