There is a certain level of greatness ascribed to canned tuna — it is high in protein, inexpensive, widely accessible and one of the nation’s most popular pantry perishables.
Tuna can be found canned in grocery stores, bought fresh at local fish markets or prepared at any Subway sandwich restaurant. Could tuna’s hot streak ever end?
A class-action lawsuit against Subway is contending that the chain’s tuna sandwiches are “completely bereft of tuna as an ingredient,” according to The New York Times. (The suit was reported on during the winter by The Washington Post.)
Subway’s tuna is “anything but tuna,” posits Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin, the plaintiffs in the California-based lawsuit, according to The Times.
Subway unequivocally denies the claim, for it would be imprudent to remain ignorant on the matter.
“There simply is no truth to the allegations in the complaint that was filed in California,” a Subway spokesperson wrote in an email to The Times.
“Subway delivers 100 percent cooked tuna to its restaurants, which is mixed with mayonnaise and used in freshly made sandwiches, wraps and salads that are served to and enjoyed by our guests.”
It is the classic case of one person’s word against another.
But the plaintiffs have refused to indicate the specifics of their qualms with Subway’s fish. At the moment, they simply contend the chain is deceiving its customers by selling “falsely advertised” tuna sandwiches.
According to The Times, a Subway spokesperson continued to recapitulate that, “The taste and quality of our tuna make it one of Subway’s most popular products, and these baseless accusations threaten to damage our franchises.
“Subway’s tuna sandwich ranks among our guests’ favorite sandwiches.”
But as the litigation drags on, a Times reporter investigated the case further. The reporter recently bought 60 inches of Subway tuna sandwiches from three locations in the Los Angeles area, then removed and froze the tuna meat and shipped it to a commercial food testing lab across the country to discover whether Subway’s tuna meat was, in fact, tuna.
Once the product arrived at the lab, a PCR test — a process by which billions of copies of a specific DNA sample are produced — would identify whether Subway’s tuna included one of the two species of tuna Subway says it uses in its sandwiches.
The lab took more than a month to respond.
“No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA,” the testing lab said in an email to The New York Times. “Therefore, we cannot identify the species.”
However, the lab spokesman did not stop there.
“There’s two conclusions,” the email read. “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.”
Subway declined to comment on the results from the lab, according to The Times.
Before final judgment can be made, however, there are a few important things to note.
For one, after tuna meat is processed and cooked, the fish’s DNA is essentially destroyed, making it almost impossible to determine results from a lab test.
It also wold be uneconomical for Subway to intentionally deceive customers. Tuna already is an affordable protein, so why mislabel its contents?
Dave Rudie, president of Catalina Offshore Products in San Diego, told The Times it might be unnecessary to blame Subway.
“I don’t think a sandwich place would intentionally mislabel,” he said. “They’re buying a can of tuna that says ‘tuna.’ If there’s any fraud in this case, it happened at the cannery.”
An earlier investigation conducted by Inside Edition found that three Subway locations in Queens, New York, used tuna in their sandwiches, according to lab testing.
Thus, it’s possible the sandwich shop could win the California class-action lawsuit.
In addition, the plaintiffs have softened their original stance, according to The Times. In a new filing from last month, the plaintiffs’ complaints focused not on whether Subway’s tuna was tuna, but whether it was “100% sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna.”
The next time you venture to Subway for a fresh sandwich, however, you might want to think twice about ordering tuna.
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