By Kylie Gumpert
(Reuters) - Sandwich chain Subway on Thursday said it would drop artificial ingredients from its menu, joining a number of fast food companies that have made similar moves toward healthier products.
The move applies to items produced by Subway restaurants, such as sandwiches, soups, salads and cookies.
The largest fast food chain in the world, which is privately held, said it will replace artificial ingredients with natural equivalents in North American establishments by 2017.
Companies including Panera Bread Co, Noodles and Co as well as Yum Brands Inc's Taco Bell and Pizza Hut made similar promises earlier this year.
The chain, which has over 43,000 restaurants in 110 countries, has already made a number of moves toward healthier menus for all its stores. It removed artificial trans-fat in 2008, reduced sodium in 2009 and removed high fructose corn syrup from sandwiches and salads in 2014.
Elizabeth Stewart, the company’s director of corporate social responsibility said Subway’s transition would not affect current relationships with suppliers and the company does not expect higher prices for customers from the switch.
“There is an overall trend in food cost increase,” Stewart said. “If in the future our costs go up it will be driven by the trend in food costs, and not this initiative.”
(Reporting by Kylie Gumpert; Editing by Bernard Orr)