Subway and the Controversies That Tarnished Its Reputation

Subway, the food outlet that has been serving default American meals by way of “healthy” submarine sandwiches, was again the subject of a legal controversy.

Although the lawsuit was a taxation matter that involved a Subway franchisee in Ireland, the Irish Supreme Court came out with a ruling that included declaring Subway bread as “not legally bread.” While the U.S. Subway Company of course declares their submarine sandwiches as bread, they do not meet the definition of bread under Ireland’s Value-Added Tax Act of 1972.

In Ireland, for bread to be included as a basic food commodity, the product must not contain more than two percent (2%) of the weight of the flour used in making the dough. As was legally affirmed by Ireland’s Supreme Court, the bread being used by Subway for submarine sandwiches has sugar content equivalent to 10% of the flour weight of dough. That being the case, the highest court of the land disqualified the irish Subway franchisee from claiming refunds for the Value Added Tax payments made in 2004 and 2005.

Subway the Largest Sandwich Chain in the World but Also the Most Controversial

While Subway sandwiches have been touted as the healthier choice when it comes to eating fast food offerings, complaints and petitions in recent years have tarnished the authenticity of Subway sandwiches as “healthful.”

Not Really Chicken

In 2017, an investigative consumer program of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) had placed fast-food chicken meat under DNA testing at the Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory of Trent University. While the CBC consumer program noted that marinade and seasoning would keep chicken meat from being graded as 100 percent pure, Subway failed to pass the acceptable grade.

Based on the results of the DNA testing, Subway’s chicken sandwich fillings were only half meat because the rest of the ingredients are mainly soybeans. Providers of other fast food sandwiches in Canada, like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s and A&W fared better, as their test results came out with 80 – 90% chicken DNA.

Not Really Healthy

In 2014, a food blogger of a website called FoodBabe launched a petition that drew attention to Subway’s use of a flour/dough enhancing chemical compound known as Azodicarbonamide. Although the chemical, even if in use as a bleaching agent for fake leathers and yoga mats, still carries U.S. FDA’s approval as a culinary ingredient. However, in Europe and Australia, Azodicarbonamide is not approved for food production use, being basically a plastic substance.

As a result, Subway had no other recourse but to stop using the ingredient in order to save its tarnished reputation as a healthy fast food choice.

Not Really Footlong

In an earlier case, a lawsuit was filed against Subway for making misrepresentations about its footlong sandwiches when in fact, the sandwiches were actually only 11 inches in length. Rather than let the issue get too much attention, Subway Corporation agreed to settle the matter extra-judicially by paying about a half-million dollars, plus agreeing to make additional disclosures to consumers.