At Subway, Eat Fresh What?

The New York Times’ Julia Carmel did a deep dive into tuna sandwiches from Subway — one of the world’s largest restaurant chains — over a class-action lawsuit claiming that its tuna sandwiches “are completely bereft of tuna as an ingredient.”    The company claims their sandwiches contain 100% tuna but Carmel sent several samples collected in Los Angeles to a lab for testing and the results were inconclusive – no telling after it has been shipped thousands of miles and processed.  A foot-long Subway tuna sandwich on average costs around $8.50.

Why This Matters:  In the 1980s canned tuna was a staple food found in nearly every pantry in America.  But these days tuna are harder and harder to catch, as the wildly popular Netflix documentary Seaspiracy explained to many who were simply unaware of how their tuna roll or melt was impacting the ocean. As one expert from the Pew Trusts explained to Carmel, Subway’s super inexpensive tuna sandwiches (not to mention cheap sushi) raise bigger issues. He said, “We can’t just continue to have a downward pressure on the price because if we all want everything at rock bottom prices, that means something, somewhere is going to be exploited, whether that’s people or the ocean — probably both.”

How To Catch A Tuna

There are three main ways to catch tuna — purse seining, longlining, and pole-and-line fishing.  Pole and line fishing is the least environmentally harmful and also the least efficient way — and it is what you would expect — sitting on a boat and reeling them in one at a time.  Purse seine fishing involves large walls of nets that drop around a school of fish and then a drawstring closes around them and scoops them up in the “purse.”  Longlining is the most destructive — it is a 30-40 MILE long line with thousands of hooks that drag through the water catching anything and everything (sharks, birds, turtles) in that they strike in the water.  Once caught the fish are generally frozen right there on the boat, then taken to a cannery where they are cooked, canned, and sent on to markets and restaurants like Subway.  At Subway shops, the tuna arrives in vacuum-pressed aluminum pouches soaked in salt water and at the shop, they mix it with mayo and use it within 48-72 hours.

The Lawsuit

If you bought a tuna sandwich at Subway after January 21, 2017, you could be a part of the class in the lawsuit.  Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin, both residents of Alameda County in the Bay Area brought the case, alleging that they “were tricked into buying food items that wholly lacked the ingredients they reasonably thought they were purchasing” based on Subway’s labeling, packaging and advertising,” the Washington Post reported last January.  They are claiming fraud and false advertising because “Subway is ‘saving substantial sums of money in manufacturing the products because the fabricated ingredient they use in the place of tuna costs less money.’”  The plaintiffs are represented by the Lanier Law Firm, which recently won a multi-billion dollar judgment against Johnson & Johnson for their baby powder causing cancer.

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