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Subway Aggressively Defends Its Tuna With a New Move

The chain is working hard to assure customers its tuna is a premium product.

Sandwich chain Subway has recently announced the biggest menu update in the brand's history. From sandwiches to individual ingredients like turkey and bacon—America's largest fast-food chain seems to be set on turning around its dwindling brand image. But besides assuring customers the new menu would be an improvement in quality, the chain also used the opportunity to fiercely defend one of its most problematic ingredients: tuna.

"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."

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, 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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Mura Dominko
Mura is ETNT's Executive Editor, leading the coverage of America's favorite restaurant chains, grocery stores, and viral food moments. Read more about Mura