- The NYT published a report stating that it found no tuna DNA in Subway tuna sandwiches.
- Subway called the method unreliable and maintains that it serves 100% tuna.
- Subway has publicly defended its tuna sourcing for years.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Tuna wasn’t on the first menu, but it’s been around for decades. “Our popular tuna sandwich, made from 100% wild caught tuna mixed with mayo, has been a staple of our menu for years,” the chain told Insider.
In 2011, Subway surpassed McDonald’s as the world’s largest restaurant chain.
Nonprofit group Oceana conducted a two-year study on fish sales and mislabeling, and found that 59% of US tuna was mislabeled and contained other fish. The findings were released in 2013 and picked up in the media.
Source: Oce ana
In 2016, Subway joined International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF), a nonprofit dedicated to developing sustainable fisheries and supply chains.
At the time, Subway said that it “only serves its customers with skipjack tuna, sourced from fisheries with non-threatened stock levels.”
In 2019, Subway emphasized tuna with a new tuna collection, including a tuna melt and BLT through a partnership with Tastemade.
Source: Fast Company
In January 2021, a California lawsuit alleged that Subway profited by mislabeling a tuna product that contained no actual tuna.
“The products are made from a mixture of various concoctions that do not constitute tuna, yet have been blended together by Defendants to imitate the appearance of tuna,” the suit said.
“Tuna is one of our most popular sandwiches. Our restaurants receive 100% wild-caught tuna, mix it with mayonnaise and serve on a freshly made sandwich to our guests,” Subway said, calling the claims “meritless.”
In February, Inside Edition had samples from tuna sandwiches in Queens tested, and found that they were in fact tuna.
The mislabeling allegations didn’t stop Subway’s embrace of tuna. The chain introduced a new tuna melt with onions and provolone in May of this year.
In June, the plaintiffs from the suit amended their claims. They are no longer questioning whether Subway serves tuna, but whether it is actually “100% sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna.”
Then in June, the New York Times published its own report after sending out multiple tuna sandwiches for lab testing.
“No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA,” the lab told The Times. “Therefore, we cannot identify the species.”
A spokesperson from the lab offered possible explanations: “One, it’s so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn’t make an identification,” the person said. “Or we got some and there’s just nothing there that’s tuna.”
Tuna experts also say that the cooking process could break down the tuna protein, making it difficult to identify in a lab.
Subway shot back with a statement calling the DNA testing carried out by The Times “an unreliable methodology for identifying processed tuna … DNA testing is simply not a reliable way to identify denatured proteins, like Subway’s tuna, which was cooked before it was tested.”
Subway says tuna remains one of its most popular sandwich fillings.
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