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The Washington Post reports that Subway, the world's largest fast food chain, yesterday announced that it plans to eliminate all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from the menus in its US stores by 2017.

It is the same direction previously charted by competitors such as Chipotle, Panera, McDonald's, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, as fast feeders look to become more appealing to an increasingly large percentage of the population that wants fresher, healthier foods ... even at their local fast food joint. Though, there remains some question whether this particular move will be effective in achieving this end.

The Post writes: "Knocking out artificial ingredients, experts said, has become a tried-and-true method for massive food chains wanting to look healthier without becoming, well, healthier. It's a glitzy move of marketing, not nutrition: If chains really wanted to better their food, Penn State University food science professor John Coupland said, they'd change not their color, but their sugar content or portion sizes.

"But here's where it gets tricky. Axing the food elements that are least healthy carries a big risk: turning the product into something fewer people want. Cutting minor chemicals, though, gives the chain a healthful glow without actually changing anything important."

Subway officials say that it will be a "daunting" task to achieve this particular goal by 2017, but that they wanted to be aggressive; they also say they are not sure it will have any measurable impact on a sales decline that seems to be caused by a perception that the company is not as healthy as has been portrayed in its advertising.
KC's View:
Michael Sansolo had an excellent column about Subway's travails, which you can read here.

Ordinarily, I would think that we are seeing a sea-change in the way fast food is created and sold in this country. Except that I keep seeing advertising on television for a burger made with a beef patty, topped with a split hot dog, sitting on a layer of potato chips. It sounds awful ... and suggests that maybe we're seeing a kind of bifurcation in the fast food business.