Subway's Tuna Actually Contains Meat From Other Animals, Lawsuit Says
If you thought it was bad enough that Subway's tuna potentially contained no tuna, you'll find the latest allegations about the sandwich chain's controversial ingredient truly shocking.
The most recent iteration of the civil lawsuit filed against Subway back in January, alleging that the brand's tuna doesn't contain actual tuna DNA, has a bold new claim: the ingredients in Subway's tuna include proteins from other animals, like chicken, pork, and cattle.
According to Reuters, the original plaintiffs amended their lawsuit this week for the third time, claiming that DNA of other animal species was found in new samples of Subway's tuna they most recently had tested at UCLA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The lawsuit alleges that while no detectable tuna DNA was found in 19 of the 20 samples tested, all of the samples did contain "detectable sequences of chicken DNA." Furthermore, eleven of those samples contained pork DNA and seven contained DNA from cattle.
Subway states on its website that the tuna is "wild-caught skipjack tuna regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," and is "100% real." In a statement to Eat This, the chain called the latest complaint in this case "meritless," and said the plaintiffs are "changing their story each time."
"This third, most recent amended claim, was filed only after their prior complaint was rightfully dismissed by a federal judge," the statement read. "Our legal team is in the process of evaluating the plaintiffs' amended claim, and will once again file a new motion to dismiss this reckless and improper lawsuit."
When it was first filed in January, the lawsuit was a bombshell. It claimed that the chain's tuna was "a mixture of various concoctions that do not constitute tuna, yet have been blended together by the defendants to imitate the appearance of tuna." In fact, the claims went further, stating that a lab test "found that the ingredients were not tuna and not fish," but no further clarification on what was in Subway's tuna was provided.
The subsequent independent research by The New York Times seemed to have confirmed the claim that, try as you might, you can't actually find any traces of tuna in Subway's tuna. However, deception by Subway was only one possible scenario. Another plausible explanation, according to the report, was that Subway's tuna is simply too processed to turn up any DNA in lab tests.
And this is exactly the explanation Subway decided to run with. On the section of their website dedicated solely to vindicating its tuna, the chain claims that it's common to not find tuna DNA in a sample of cooked tuna.
According to an expert Eat This interviewed on the topic in June, what might be a likely scenario is that Subway is using cheap fish leftovers from fish processing facilities.
"What I believe Subway is doing is they're using 100% flake from the lines of a very large factory, which is the cheapest byproduct, to get their costs down," said Sean Wittenberg, cofounder of sustainable seafood company Safe Catch. "And they're probably doing it from a variety of seafood species—with everything off the line—but I bet the main species that you're seeing there is skipjack, tongol, and bonito."
The quality of the tuna and the question about the fish species being passed off as tuna was at the heart of the second iteration of the lawsuit, which was filed this summer. The case was almost put to rest in October when U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar dismissed it, saying that the plaintiffs failed to show that they bought the tuna based on the alleged misrepresentation. But, the judge did not rule on the merits of the case, which left room for the lawsuit to be amended yet again.
Now, this latest amendment is taking Subway's tuna from mystery fish to mystery meat. According to The New York Post, the plaintiffs now claim that Subway isn't doing enough to prevent the adulteration of its product.
"Defendants do not take sufficient measures to control or prevent the known risks of adulteration to its tuna products," the lawsuit reads. "On the contrary, they actively perpetuate actions and steps that encourage mixing or allowing non-tuna ingredients to make their way into the tuna products."
For more on Subway, check out:
- America's Largest Fast-Food Chain Is on a Downward Spiral, Reports Say
- Subway Operators Blame Founder's Scandalous Behavior for Chain's Downfall
- America's Largest Fast-Food Chain Is Taking a Harsh Stance Against Franchisees
And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get all of the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox every day!
Editor's Note: This article was updated on November 13 to include comments from Subway.