Unfortunately, the fast-food sandwich chain Subway is now looking at a class-action lawsuit over the contents of the tuna product that is in their sandwiches that they offer to their customers.
The lawsuit had its genesis from a weekend report in the New York Times where a reporter took a serious look at what goes into Subway’s tuna offerings. She went so far as to have these sandwiches tested by a lab, no less, and they found NO IDENTIFIABLE TUNA DNA in the sandwiches that were tested.
In this report, Times reporter Julia Carmel purchased 60 inches of these Subway tuna sandwiches from different Subway locations in Los Angeles.
Carmel noted that she had removed the tuna from the sandwiches, froze it, and then she paid $500 for a lab to test it. This third-party commercial food testing lab conducted what is known as a PCR test to determine the exact composition of the food. Granted the lab was already a bit hesitant, because they were “wary regarding the challenges of identifying the type of fish when it had been cooked at least once, frozen, mixed with mayo and then shipped across the country”, but they agreed to the challenging assignment regardless.
The lab did not wish to disclose their identity, but they tested this fish over a 30-day period and they ultimately determined that “no amplifiable tuna DNA was present in this sample” and the lab was not able to obtain any “DNA products from this sample.”
“Therefore,” the lab concluded, “we are not able to identify the species.”
A spokesperson affiliated with the lab told Carmel that there were two different conclusions that could be gleaned from the results.
“One, the tuna in this sample is so heavily processed that whatever it is we pulled out, we weren’t able to identify it,” the spokesperson noted. “Or two, we got some, but there just isn’t anything there that can be classified as tuna.”
Carmel also was quick to note that there were several caveats to keep in mind when analyzing the results of this testing.
“Once you cook tuna completely, it will denature the DNA,” she noted. “That means that the characteristic properties of the fish will likely be destroyed, and that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to identity what type of fish it used to be.”
There was a January report from the seafood list that had been compiled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and they noted that there are at least 15 different species of fish that can be labeled as “tuna.”
Carmel also noted in her report that plaintiff’s in this lawsuit have also allegedly “softened down their original claims.” To wit, instead of claiming that there is no tuna whatsoever in Subway’s tuna offerings, they are now questioning whether this product really consists of yellowfin and skipjack tuna as advertised by the firm.
“The complainants filed a new report this June, and it centered not on whether Subway’s tuna was tuna at all, but whether their product could be described as ‘100 percent sustainably caught yellowfin or skipjack tuna,'” Carmel noted.
Carmel also cited Peter Horn, who is director of the Ending Illegal Fishing Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“In the defense of Subway, or most of these fishmonger individuals, in actuality the you get the fish from the bone, the harder it can be to recognize what type of fish that it is,” he noted regarding the suit. “Most of us can see the fish on the bone, and we notice that the skin is intact, and we can still recognize what type of fish that it is. You can drop the head and tail off of it, but you can still probably recognize it until though it might be more difficult. If you take the skin off it, you take it off the bone and then you cut that into slices then you’re only sort of saying, ‘Right, but where’s the color and texture?'”
The company declined to comment on the Times report’s findings.
Another Test, Different Results
Last February, Inside Edition sent samples from three different Subway locations in Queens to an independent lab in Florida, and they determined that the specimens were indeed tuna. Were these “findings” politically motivated? Hard to say.
“Yes, we were able to confirm that tuna was definitely in all three of the samples that we received,” LeeAnn Applewhite, the CEO of Applied Food Technologies reported to Inside Edition for their reporting.
Following the Applied Food Technologies Test, a spokesperson for Subway told the outlet, “The tuna that our franchisees serve to their guests on a daily basis is 100% real, cooked tuna, so there is no simply no basis in fact regarding the allegations in the complaint filed in California.”
In the June’s amended complaint, the plaintiffs stated that they are now questioning whether the fish used in Subway’s tuna sandwiches are actually “sustainably caught and harvested.”
A Subway spokesperson took this and ran, claiming that the fact that the plaintiffs have now changed their story is evidence that they have “abandoned their original claim that Subway’s tuna product does not have any tuna.”
“However, they filed an amended complaint that now alleges our tuna is not 100% tuna and that it is not sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna,” the spokesperson said. “Just like the original claim, the new claims have absolutely no merit. In fact, the amended complaint does not remedy any of the fundamental flaws in the plaintiffs’ case and it is disappointing that they have elected to continue to pursue these baseless claims.”
More Information Regarding the Suit
Plaintiffs Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin filed the original lawsuit in a California federal court last January, and they alleged that Subway was attempting to pass off an undetermined type of fish as skipjack or yellowfin tuna.
One component of the suit stated that the fast-food sandwich restaurant was “selling and continuing to sell some type of mixture that is being passed off in their line as something that isn’t compliant” with real tuna, and the product is “completely bereft” of it.
However, the restaurant continues to categorically deny these allegations.
Do you think that these Subway sandwiches are made from real tuna?