In a groundbreaking effort to bring the same level of transparency to restaurant menus that has been required on packaged-goods food for years, Pei Wei Asian Kitchen formally petitioned the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to compel restaurants to disclose their menu’s ingredients.

Pei Wei’s Citizen Petition, submitted under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, requests that the FDA Commissioner amend an existing provision (21 C.F.R. § 101.11(c)(3)) to require restaurants to affirmatively substantiate their nutritional claims by disclosing the recipe or formula for their standard menu items.

The Petition follows last week’s introduction of The Wei Forward, a clean-label initiative that embodies Pei Wei’s belief that food should begin with wholesome, fresh ingredients that create bold flavor, and that transparency in ingredients is the best way to empower customers to make smart choices.

“We aren’t the first brand to launch a clean-label initiative, but we feel so strongly about it that we’re calling on the FDA to require all restaurant brands to disclose their ingredients,” said Pei Wei CEO J. Hedrick. “To me, it’s just common sense. The FDA’s new Menu Labeling rule has been well received by the public, and we believe this will be, too. Frankly, any restaurant chain that objects to disclosing its ingredients is a restaurant I would avoid.”

Pei Wei announced last week that, by 2020, all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives – dubbed its ‘No Wei List’ – will be removed from its entire menu. The brand also voluntarily published the full Ingredients Statement for its top-selling dish: the fresh, all-white-meat, never frozen Wei Better Orange Chicken, as well as selected other items. Over the months ahead, additional dishes will be released until the entire menu is completely transparent.

In suspiciously coincidental timing, Pei Wei’s spokes-animal, Tiger, took to Twitter to challenge his hapless pal, Panda, to release the ingredients in Panda Express’ Orange Chicken dish. It has now been more than a week, and no response …

“We decided to hire a private investigator, a former FBI agent, to seek out the ingredients in Panda Express’ Orange Chicken,” saysBrandon Solano, Chief Marketing & Digital Officer at Pei Wei. “He actually had to go ‘dumpster diving’ to get it. We don’t think consumers should have to hire a PI to find out what’s in the food at the restaurants they patronize. So we’re voluntarily releasing our ingredients statements. And if Panda doesn’t want to join us, well, we just might do it for them.”

To bolster its argument to the FDA, Pei Wei’s petition noted that in the U.S., “one in five meals is consumed away from home and more than half of consumers’ food spending is at restaurants.” Pei Wei also conducted a research study that revealed that 70 percent of consumers who live in a Pei Wei trade area are “Extremely” or “Very” interested in having access to detailed restaurant ingredient information.

Pei Wei has begun to actively reach out to like-minded restaurant brands to seek their support of the petition’s goals. Interested companies are encouraged to contact Pei Wei. Consumers can join the campaign by signing on to the petition.

Fast Casual, News, Pei Wei