Subway CEO hits back at tuna critics

A Subway storefront.

Subway’s CEO defended the company’s sandwiches after a class-action lawsuit questioned the veracity and sustainability of the chain’s tuna.

"We're very proud of our tuna," Subway CEO John Chidsey told CNN, adding that it is one of his two favorite sandwiches.

A recent major menu overhaul conducted by the franchise left its tuna sandwiches untouched, an added testament to their quality, Subway said.

“While many of Subway's core protein choices were improved as part of the Eat Fresh Refresh, one ingredient that doesn't need an upgrade is the Subway high-quality, premium tuna,” the sandwich chain said in a press release. “Subway sources tuna from leading global food suppliers that have a reputation for working diligently with food safety and quality experts to ensure consistent, high-quality products at every stage of the supply chain.”

Subway’s “100 percent wild-caught tuna” remains a fan-favorite, Subway added.

While consumers in a class-action complaint filed in California originally said that Subway’s tuna sandwiches do not use real tuna, a recent amended complaint targets Subway’s marketing and advertising claims that its tuna is 100 percent sustainably-caught skipjack and yellowfin, and that its tuna does not contain “tuna species that come from anything less than healthy stocks, for example albacore and tongol.”

“The amended complaint … Now does say it is 100 percent tuna. They question what kind of tuna it is. But they acknowledge it is 100 percent tuna,” Chidsey told CNN.

DNA testing utilized by a lab in a recent New York Times report was unable to identify tuna within the chain’s sandwiches. That’s because the kind of test utilized is not accurate for canned and/or processed tuna, according to Subway and the founder of a top DNA testing lab for cooked and processed tuna who spoke to SeafoodSource.

“I say follow the science, and if you follow the science, once tuna is cooked, its DNA becomes denatured, which means when you go to test it, you can't tell one way or the other,” Chidsey said.

LeeAnn Applewhite, founder and president of food DNA testing firm Applied Food Technologies in Alachua, Florida, confirmed that the type of DNA testing that the unidentified lab in the New York Times report utilized cannot detect tuna.

AFT is the only lab in the United States with the capability to test small, processed particles of tuna to determine whether it is truly albacore, skipjack, or other tuna as identified on the label, according to Applewhite.

“The retort process used in canned tuna production degrades and fragments the DNA. Our proprietary primers were developed to target these small fragments of DNA for analysis,” Applewhite said.

In related news, Gathered Foods’ plant-based seafood analog brand Good Catch is offering sandwich lovers free fish-free subs “in a bid to motivate consumers to encourage Subway to go fish-free for good,” the company said in a press release.

“With a recent New York Times investigation into Subway tuna sandwiches revealing that no tuna DNA was present in the tuna subs they analyzed, Good Catch is on a mission to spread the word about tasty plant-based seafood and prove there is nothing fishy going on when it comes to its 100 percent fish-free tuna — the only tuna that's truly sustainable,” Good Catch said.

The company’s OurWay van is touring prime locations in London, United Kingdom; New York, New York; and Austin, Texas on 15 July.

Photo courtesy of James Copeland/Shutterstock


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