Subway CEO: We changed everything -- except our tuna

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CNN 13 July, 2021 - 05:08pm 47 views

Updated 12:25 PM ET, Tue July 13, 2021

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Subway CEO backs sandwiches as ‘100% tuna’ amid lawsuit, lab tests

New York Post 13 July, 2021 - 12:30pm

By Will Feuer

July 13, 2021 | 1:30pm | Updated July 13, 2021 | 1:30pm

Subway’s CEO insists there’s nothing fishy about his tuna.

The sandwich chain’s head vehemently denied allegations that the tuna in the fast-food giant’s sandwiches is fake — as he declared that the Subway’s fish is no chicken or mystery meat of the sea.

“[It’s] 100-percent tuna,” John Chidsey said Tuesday on on Fox Business. “We 100 percent stand behind our tuna.”

Chidsey’s defiant backing of his company’s tuna comes on the heels of an investigation last month by The New York Times, which sent frozen samples to a testing lab that said it couldn’t find any tuna DNA.

The newspaper said the lab did a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test to see if the substance in the sandwiches had any of five different tuna species.

More than a month after the samples were submitted, the lab results read, “No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA.”

“Therefore, we cannot identify the species,” the results said, according to the Times.

A spokesman for the lab offered two possible conclusions from the results.

“One, it’s so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn’t make an identification. Or we got some and there’s just nothing there that’s tuna,” he told the Times.

Subway pushed back on the results immediately, with spokeswoman Lorri Christou dismissing the allegations as “baseless” and saying that “DNA testing is an unreliable methodology for identifying processed tuna.”

The testing “does not show that there is not tuna in Subway’s tuna.  All it says is that the testing could not confirm tuna, which is what one would expect from a DNA test of denatured proteins,” Christou previously told The Post.

Chidsey echoed that point in his remarks Tuesday.

“If you follow the science, once tuna is cooked, its DNA becomes denatured, which means you can’t tell once the product’s been cooked,” he said.

 “Even the New York Times said that in its article,” he added. 

It was two California women who sparked the food fraud controversy in January, when they filed a class-action lawsuit against the company alleging that Subway’s tuna sandwiches aren’t actually made of the fish.

The women ordered tuna from the sandwich giant at locations near their home, but “independent testing has repeatedly affirmed, the products are made from anything but tuna,” the suit said.

The suit alleged that Subway’s tuna is “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.”

In an amended complaint from June, the plaintiffs toned down their allegations, saying that Subway claims to sell sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna, but was in fact selling “anything less than healthy stocks.”

Subway has been “selling and continuing to sell some mixture that is deceptively and dishonestly being passed off as in line with their representations to purchasers but are not actually compliant,” the amended suit states.

Subway has repeatedly disputed the allegations and defended its tuna sandwiches in a marketing blitz.

Chidsey pointed to the website Subwaytunafacts.com, which the company created “to set forth the facts and help clarify any misunderstandings” about the tuna controversy.

The website notes that Subway uses “wild-caught skipjack tuna regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.” 

It goes on to explain that “what actually happened is that the New York Times commissioned a test that couldn’t detect tuna DNA in their sample” and that “according to scientific experts, this is not unusual when testing cooked tuna.” 

Subway Aggressively Defends Its Tuna With a New Move

Eat This, Not That 13 July, 2021 - 09:45am

"While many of Subway's core protein choices were improved as part of the Eat Fresh Refresh, one ingredient that doesn't need an upgrade is the Subway high-quality, premium tuna," the company said in a press release. "Subway sources tuna from leading global food suppliers that have a reputation for working diligently with food safety and quality experts and suppliers to ensure consistent, high-quality products at every stage of the supply chain. The 100% wild-caught tuna remains a fan favorite among sub lovers."

RELATED: Subway's Tuna Is Likely an Assembly Line Byproduct, Expert Says

Subway doubled down on this message with a new website meant to "set forth the facts and help clarify any misunderstandings" about the ingredient. The newly launched SubwayTunaFacts.com, which is accessible from the chain's main website, cropped up after recent controversy over the contents of the tuna served in their subs.

Last year's customer lawsuit alleging the chain's tuna doesn't contain any tuna kicked off a media frenzy around the chain already battling negative press over its treatment of franchisees. In June, the New York Times conducted an independent investigation into the matter. The publication sent Subway's tuna samples in for lab testing, and the results couldn't confirm nor deny the claim for the original lawsuit. The test found "no amplifiable tuna DNA" in the sample, but an expert told the publication the reason for this could be that the fish is simply too processed to turn up any DNA in lab tests.

Sean Wittenberg, the cofounder of seafood company Safe Catch, told Eat This, Not That! that Subway is likely using 100% byproduct of twice-cooked tuna called the "flake," aka the cheap trimmings that come off of the loin of the fish in the production assembly line.

"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," he said. "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."

However, the new website attempts to dispel these theories. "FDA-regulated Subway importers use only 100% wild-caught tuna from whole round, twice cleaned, skipjack tuna loins," the site says. "Reclaimed meat and flake are strictly prohibited by our standards."

Additionally, the website identifies Subway's tuna importers—something the company refused to reveal earlier—as Jana Brands and Rema Foods. It goes on to list several quality control certifications for the product and provides comments on the ongoing lawsuit.

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Subway CEO defends controversial tuna sandwich: 'Follow the science'

Fox Business 13 July, 2021 - 08:02am

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Subway Restaurants CEO John Chidsey explains why he is defending the company's tuna and why it was 'the one thing we didn’t touch' in the menu revamp.

Subway Restaurants CEO John Chidsey addressed the tuna controversy on "Mornings with Maria" on Tuesday, saying sandwiches contain "100% tuna" and that the company stands behind the product after a lab report found there’s no actual tuna DNA in its sandwiches and wraps. 

The New York Times had 60 inches of Subway tuna sandwiches from three different restaurants in Los Angeles lab tested after the chain was accused in a lawsuit reported earlier this year, alleging the fish is made from "a mixture of various concoctions," first reported by the Washington Post. 

The tuna was frozen and sent out to the lab, which determined "no amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA. Therefore, we cannot identify the species," according to the Times. 

GROCERIES ARE GETTING MORE EXPENSIVE DUE TO LABOR SHORTAGES ACROSS INDUSTRIES 

The lab conducted a PCR test to see if Subway’s tuna featured one of five varying tuna species, the New York Times reported, explaining there are 15 species of fish that can be labeled tuna, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Seafood List

The lab determined two potential reasons why no tuna was detected in the sample, saying, "One it’s so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn’t make an identification … Or we got some and there’s just nothing there that’s tuna," the newspaper noted. 

Experts told the Times that when tuna is cooked, its protein breaks down, making it hard to identify, so the lab results may not be accurate, according to the Times.

Chidsey brought up that point on Tuesday, telling host Maria Bartiromo, "if you follow the science, once tuna is cooked its DNA becomes denatured, which means you can’t tell once the product’s been cooked." 

 "Even the New York Times said that in its article," he continued. 

The food fraud investigation comes on the heels of a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California suing the sandwich chain for fraud, with the plaintiffs alleging they were lied to and "tricked into buying food items that wholly lacked the ingredients they reasonably thought they were purchasing." 

Subway responded to the lawsuit in January, saying there is "no truth to the allegations in the complaint" and affirming the chain "delivers 100% cooked tuna to its restaurants," Fox News previously reported.   

Speaking with Bartiromo on Tuesday, Chidsey pointed to the website Subwaytunafacts.com, which was created by the company "to set forth the facts and help clarify any misunderstandings" regarding the tuna. The website notes that Subway uses "wild-caught skipjack tuna regulated by the Food and Drug Administration." 

The website explains that "what actually happened is that the New York Times commissioned a test that couldn’t detect tuna DNA in their sample" and that "according to scientific experts, this is not unusual when testing cooked tuna." 

"We 100% stand behind our tuna," Chidsey told Maria Bartiromo. 

"It’s the one ingredient we didn’t even touch in the largest brand refresh in the history of this brand," he continued. 

Earlier this month, the sandwich chain announced that it is revamping its menu and incorporating "important digital upgrades" in its restaurants. 

Chidsey explained the revamp on FOX Business on Tuesday, the day "the biggest changes in the brand’s history" take effect following "consumer research" showing "they were desperate for food innovation."

Subway Restaurants CEO John Chidsey outlines what the company is doing to find workers amid a 'tough environment' and addresses the tuna controversy, saying sandwiches contain '100% tuna.' 

Chidsey noted that the company spent the last 16 months upgrading the quality of most of the core products, including ham, turkey, and smashed avocado. Subway fans will now see more than 20 menu updates, which includes 11 new and improved ingredients, six all-new or returning sandwiches and four revamped signature sandwiches, according to the company. 

Chidsey said on Tuesday that the assortment of new sandwiches and new core products will now be available, but stressed that "tuna is the one thing we didn’t touch because that was a product that our consumers loved." 

Bartiromo asked Chidsey if the menu revamp will lead to higher prices, especially given inflation has sent food prices soaring.

Chidsey said that when the company "did this refresh, when we dreamed up what we needed to do months and months ago, that was obviously pre-COVID and before a lot of these supply chain issues." 

He noted that "obviously when you have higher quality items, they’re going to cost you a bit more," but said that the company looked for other ways to offset the cost, including making changes to the company’s packaging, which he said was initially successful. 

However, the recent inflationary pressure created challenges and now Subway is looking for ways to mitigate the increased costs to consumers as much as possible, Chidsey said.

He warned that some of the inflationary burden could be passed along to the consumer, but added that he believes it’s "too early for us to tell really how much impact that will have."

Chidsey made the comments on the same day it was revealed that U.S. consumer prices rose last month at the fastest pace since August 2008.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the consumer price index rose 0.9% in June, faster than the 0.6% increase in May. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting a 0.5% gain. Food prices rose 0.8%, according to the department. 

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