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Ingredient ban 'right way to do business': Panera CEO

Panera Bread has decided to ban certain additives from its menu because it's the right way to do business, not necessarily to increase foot traffic in its restaurants, its CEO said Tuesday.

On Monday, the fast casual restaurant released a no-no list that includes more than 80 items that have either already been eliminated or are in the process of being removed.

"I hope people get that this is a Good Housingkeeping Seal of approval, a line in the sand. They know there is a comprehensive, transparent, clean food within Panera," the company's CEO and founder, Ron Shaich, said in an interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Tuesday.

"If that helps them come to Panera so much more, that's great. But frankly, we're doing it because it's the right way to do business."

The menu change will affect more than 150 ingredients in its food. The additives include more household names such as aspartame and more obscure ones, like tertiary butylhydroquinone.


A Panera Bread location in Chicago
Getty Images
A Panera Bread location in Chicago

Starting Tuesday, the company will serve "clean" salad dressings without these artificial additives, marking one of the most complex undertakings of the ingredient overhaul so far.

The list follows Panera's announcement last June that it plans to remove artificial additives from its food by the end of 2016. About 85 percent of the simplified ingredients have either already launched nationally or are in test without the artificial additives.

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Shaich said the decision was not based on fending off competition from other fast casual restaurants.

"It seems to us really clear: Simple, less processed food is better," Shaich said. "This is how I want to eat, so it seems to me only logical that's what I want to do for my guests."

Panera customers won't likely see menu prices rise because of the ingredient change. "Unraveling the process is hard, but not necessarily more expensive," Shaich said.

Unengineering Panera's food has taken more than a year. The no-no list is the latest in a series of moves at Panera to clean up menu items and improve the welfare of animals used in its production. More than a decade ago, it debuted antibiotic-free chicken on its menu.

Read MoreTyson to cut human antibiotics in chickens by 2017

Other companies, like Tyson Foods and McDonald's U.S. unit, have also recently announced plans to eliminate human antibiotics from their chicken. Meanwhile, fellow restaurant chain Chick-fil-A plans to serve chicken raised without antibiotics by 2019.

"I would be surprised if we don't see the industry continue to move in this direction," Shaich added.