Food - Drink
Panera's Frozen Mac And Cheese Controversy
In 2015, bakery and fast food chain Panera Bread adopted a standard to only use "clean" ingredients, meaning no artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners, or coloring. "Clean" food also has a connotation of freshness, which may be why the chain's use of frozen mac and cheese has caused major controversy on social media.
In 2019, TikTok user and former Panera employee @briannaraelenee posted a video captioned "exposing [P]anera," which received over 1 million likes and nearly 10,000 comments. The video depicts frozen plastic bags of portioned mac and cheese that are thawed in hot water before being dumped into a bowl and served to customers.
The employee who posted the video was fired for it, but that didn’t stop scathing remarks from commenters, such as "Panera is glorified hospital food." Despite the controversy, countless other household-name fast food chains use the same or similar methods of food prep, which is meant to keep food safe and combat food poisoning.
A Panera spokesperson told Today that the mac and cheese is made off-site and then "shipped frozen to our baker cafes – this allows us to avoid using certain preservatives that do not meet our clean standards." It's clear that by "clean," the chain means they avoid certain ingredients, not that their food is the absolute freshest around.