Dear Ronald M. Shaich, CEO, Panera Bread:
I have a very popular blog called My Vegan Journal with over 50,000 followers on facebook. It is very well respected and was just voted 2nd Healthiest Facebook Page in America on the Dr. Oz Show. I take great pride and care in encouraging folks to enjoy a healthy plant based diet.
I’m writing to you because today I ate at Panera Bread and ordered what, according to your nutritional binder, was a vegan meal: Garden Vegetable Soup (without pesto) in a Bread Bowl and a Garden Salad with Fuji Apple Vinaigrette Dressing. The meal was delicious, so I snapped a photo of it and posted it as a “vegan option” for others to consider when dining out. Many people were very excited to hear the news, “liked” and “shared” the photo and commented favorably.
I then decided to do a little research to see what other vegan options were available in order to write a blog post about Panera when I came across a comment from a patron stating that they believed the bread bowls contained eggs. I immediately called the Panera where I dined and spoke with the person in charge of quality control, and to my surprise, he said they are indeed coated with eggs. I asked him to double check the ingredients binder, and he confirmed that although they contain egg, it was not listed as an ingredient. He also seemed surprised. I immediately removed the photo. Thankfully I was full from the soup and salad and didn’t eat the bowl!
I don’t eat animals because I love them and am aware of the horrific pain and suffering they endure during the process to become “food.” Most chickens are debeaked when born and live their entire lives squished in an area smaller than the size of an iPad. Male chicks don’t lay eggs, so they’re thrown into garbage bags, suffocate on top of each other, and are discarded. It’s incredibly cruel and unnecessary. And that’s just the tip of the gruesome iceberg. I beg of you to please consider the following options:
1) Skip the Egg Wash! Why? So vegans can enjoy your bread bowls; we’re quickly growing in numbers and restaurants are responding accordingly. And more importantly, so you don’t needlessly add to the suffering of animals. I realize you serve animal products, but an egg wash on bread is truly unnecessary. To put eggs on bread so it looks “pretty” is akin to wearing fur because you think it’s glamorous. Cruelty is never in fashion, and harming animals just to improve the “appearance” of food is the same thing.
2) At the VERY least, list the Eggs on your Ingredients List! Your menu states that “before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy so that a manager can, at your request, provide you a list of ingredients in your order.” Do you realize that if someone is allergic to eggs, they won’t know they’re eating them? Even after requesting an ingredients list? I don’t have any food allergies, but I know for many eating the wrong food can result in severe health problems, even death. Who knows how many people across the country have become ill after eating at your restaurant, but have been unable to track the source of their illness? I urge you to PLEASE be truthful, and list EGGS on your ingredients list. The employee was unaware of the eggs, and only after having him ask the cook was he informed that the bread contained eggs.
I look forward to your reply.
Peace and Compassion for ALL,
Jacqueline Day, My Vegan Journal
I received a response this morning from Jonathan Yohannan, Director of Public Relations at Panera Bread. He asked if I was able to speak on the phone with him and Katie Bengston, Manager of Quality Assurance ASAP. Within the hour we were on the phone. I explained my concerns, and was told that “egg wash is not part of the standard recipe” for Panera’s Sourdough Bread Bowls and that there must have been some sort of miscommunication.
After getting off the phone, I started randomly calling other locations to see if they use egg wash on their bread bowls. Most said “no,” but every so often, a Panera employee would confirm that indeed, the bread bowls do contain eggs. I don’t have time to call every Panera Bread restaurant in every state, but as of right now, those that have confirmed the use of eggs include Washington D.C. (store #601663), Walnut Creek, CA (store #601436) and Phoenix, AZ (store #601829).
In light of the confusion, and potentially deadly consequences, I asked that my suggestion to “remove ALL egg washes” from their breads be proposed to their research and culinary teams, and I’m waiting to hear their response.
Whether you’re vegan, or have allergies, or avoid certain foods for religious reasons, we are ALL entitled to know the TRUTH as to what we’re eating. Will keep you posted! Have a healthy day!