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Panera Kids Meals to Be ‘Clean’ by Sept. 7

Panera Bread Co (NASDAQ:PNRA) is challenging rivals in the food industry to offer healthier products for children.

PaneraThe initiative is called “Kids Meal Promise” and it is based on a number of rules that will help improve the health of kids who eat at fast food and fast casual locations. The company is hoping that companies will follow suit in eliminating artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners and colors.

Additionally, marketing moves such as toys should be eliminated from the meal process. Panera hopes that restaurants will serve “water first,” with the second beverage option being organic milk or 100% juice.

The company is promoting the campaign with a series of animated drawings on its website that describe popular food items in a manner that is easier to digest for children. In one video, a boy talks about apples, then comments on the dangers of sodium benzoate, a preservative.

Another video features a young girl discussing cheddar cheese, as well as the sweetener aspartame.

“Something that’s important to me is talking about how do we get kids to eat the same food as adults, just in kid-sized portion,” said Sara Burnett, director of food and wellness at Panera.

Panera has made a series of initiative over the years to help reduce the amount of harmful substances on food. The company plans on removing all artificial flavors, sweeteners and preservatives from its restaurants and grocery stores by the end of the year.

It appears as if the initiative is already bearing fruit, as McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) announced at the beginning of the month that its Chicken McNuggets will no longer have artificial preservatives.

“We are committed to doing more and will continue to make the food people truly love to eat at McDonald's even better,” said McDonald’s in response to Panera’s move.

PNRA stock is up 1.1% Thursday. MCD stock is up 0.4%.

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