Following Chipotle’s lead, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have made the decision to get rid of artificial colors and flavors from their food. Tuesday the Detroit Free Press reports that the two companies wanted to put some distance between them and the ingredients consumers are finding unappetizing. According to Liz Matthews, the chain’s chief food innovation officer, Taco Bell will start using actual black pepper in its seasoned beef Instead of “black pepper flavor.” In addition, the artificial dye Yellow No. 6 will be removed from its nacho cheese, Blue No. 1 will be removed from its avocado ranch dressing and carmine, a bright pigment, will be removed from its red tortilla strips. Presently, new recipes are being tested in select markets. They are expected to be be in stores nationally by the end of the year. Pizza Hut plans to remove artificial flavors and colors by the end of July.
Chipotle is the latest chain to remove genetically modified organisms from its food. They made the change even though the FDA claims GMOs are safe. Some critics say the purging of chemicals is due to unfounded fears over ingredients. Whether or not that is true is having little impact. Panera, McDonald’s and Subway have said they will also be switching to ingredients that people can easily recognize.
When asked about possible price increases due to the changes, Brian Niccol, the chain’s CEO, stated Tuesday that price increases are based on a variety of factors, and that the company would work to keep its menu affordable. “I do not want to lose any element of being accessible to the masses,” Niccol said.
Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are owned by Yum Brands Inc. It had been hinted that changes would be on the way. Yum CEO Greg Creed referred to changing attitudes and the desire for “real food” as a revolution in the industry at a conference for investors late last year. Artificial colors, artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup and unsustainable palm oil are expected to be remove from Taco Bell’s food by the end of 2015. Artificial preservatives will be removed “where possible” by 2017. In case you’re worried, the changes do not affect fountain drinks or co-branded products, such as its Doritos-flavored taco shells.
Entrepreneur points out that Pizza Hut has already eliminated artificial trans fats (also called partially hydrogenated oils). They are also engaged in a multi-year process to reduce sodium. By 2020 they expect that 20 percent of Pizza Hut pizzas will contain just one third of the daily recommended dietary allowance for sodium.
“Today’s consumer more than ever before wants to understand the ingredients that make up the foods that they enjoy,” David Gibbs, Pizza Hut’s CEO, said in a statement. “As the world’s largest pizza company that has unrivaled heritage in quality and flavorful pizzas, it only made sense for us to lead the category in this area.”
As with Chioptle, there was a force in the background pushing for a change in what goes into Taco Bell’s food. This time last year Vani Hari, affectionately called the Food Babe by her supporters, started investigating the ingredients of some of Taco Bell’s products. What she found was pretty amazing, and not in a good way. Interestingly, in 2011 Taco Bell was involved in a class-action lawsuit over false advertising accusations that claimed their beef is only “35% beef” and full of extenders and fillers. The lawsuit was eventually dropped but the questions remained. Whether you are a fan or critic, whenever there are major changes in food, especially if it involves GMOs, Food Babe is usually leading the charge.
The move to healthier food, whether at home or dining out, is gaining momentum. With all of the information about GMOs and chemical food additives, this trend will continue to grow. Since the FDA has proven not to always have the consumer’s best interest in mind, it’s good to know someone’s asking the hard questions-and getting results.