'Not bread': Worrying court decision about Subway sandwiches

Nadine Carroll
·2-min read

Subway has often been seen as a healthier alternative to greasy fast food, boasting the catch phrase ‘Eat Fresh’ while serving up freshly-baked bread rolls stuffed with veggies, meats and dressing.

But a court has ruled the bread used in those sandwiches doesn’t exactly meet the definition of “bread”.

The Irish Supreme Court found the loaves used to make Subway’s toasted sandwiches contained too much sugar to meet the legal definition of bread.

The decision was made after the franchise tried to claim their sandwiches were a “staple food” for a tax exemption in Ireland, but the country has a strict definition on what can be sold as “bread”.

A woman holding a Subway sandwich and a Subway drink.
The Irish Supreme Court found the loaves used to make Subway’s toasted sandwiches contained too much sugar to meet the legal definition of being bread. Source: Subway

Subway Ireland offers customers six different varieties of “bread” to choose from – including nine-grain multi-seed, Italian white bread, Italian herbs and cheese, nine-grain wheat, hearty Italian and honey oat, according to their website.

The five-judge court ruled all six varieties could not be defined as “bread” under the “statutory definition of bread”.

According to the Irish Independent, the Value-Added Tax Act 1972 states sugar, fat, and "bread improver" cannot add up to more than two per cent of the weight of the flour.

Subway bread in Ireland has a sugar content of 10 per cent of the weight of the flour included in the dough.

Three different types of Subway sandwiches.
The court ruled all six varieties of bread served in Subway Ireland could not be defined as bread. Source: Subway

The limits were reportedly put in place to stop sweet baked goods such as pastries from being labelled as a staple food and therefore exempt from being taxed.

This isn’t the first time the folks at Subway have been forced to defend their bread.

In 2014, a petition was created to ask the US chain to remove the chemical azodicarbonamide from their breads.

The chemical is approved for food usage in the US and also found in yoga mats and synthetic leather, however it’s discontinued for use in food products in Australia.

At the time Subway said the ingredient was “safe”, however they would phase the usage of it from their breads.

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