Sandwich chain Subway is once again responding to food activists in their latest campaign seeking to eliminate artificial ingredients from their products.

On Friday, a representative for the Subway fast food franchise told the Associated Press the company plans to live up to its “eat fresh” promise by altogether ridding their North American menu of “artificial flavors, colors and preservatives” by 2017.

AP has the details:

Elizabeth Stewart, Subway’s director of corporate social responsibility, said in an interview that ingredient improvement has been an ongoing process over the years. More recently, she said the chain has been working on removing caramel color from cold cuts like roast beef and ham. For its turkey, Subway says it plans to replace a preservative called proprionic acid with vinegar by the end of this year.

Among its toppings, Stewart said Subway is switching to banana peppers colored with turmeric instead of the artificial dye Yellow No. 5. Without providing details, she said the chain is also working on its sauces and cookies.

Yellow dye no. 5 “may be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals,” a 2010 study from the Center for Science in the Public Interest found.

“In addition, Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children,” the study added. “Posing some risks, while serving no nutritional or safety purpose, Yellow 5 should not be allowed in foods.”

Studies conducted in 2003 and 2005 by the National Institutes of Health National Toxicology Program also found caramel-coloring caused cancer in lab animals.

Subway’s decision has no doubt been spurred by the radical sea change in health consciousness, as consumers grow more aware of the potential dangers lurking behind seemingly-innocuous artificial ingredients.

Companies like Chick-Fil-A, Nestlé and Panera Bread have all recently announced changes to their ingredients following mounting pressure from food activists, with the Chipotle restaurant going one step further by eliminating genetically-modified ingredients.

Last month, Yum! Brands Pizza Hut and Taco Bell also both said they would also be eliminating artificial additives from their stores, with the pizza chain saying the effort would be completed by this summer.

Subway also made headlines last year when natural food blogger and activist Vani Hari, AKA the “Food Babe,” exposed chemical ingredients used in their bread, eventually strong-arming the company with the help of her followers into eliminating azodiacarbonamide, a chemical found in yoga mats, shoe rubber and synthetic leather.

Watch: Subway responded to Hari’s “shoe chemical” petition the day after her appearance on The Alex Jones Show, where she issued a call to action. Below, she discusses the monumental victory a day after her initial appearance.


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