Irish Court Rules that Subway Bread isn’t Bread


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Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled that fast food chain Subway’s bread cannot be legally defined as bread, due to its high sugar content. 

“There is no dispute that the bread supplied by Subway in its heated sandwiches has a sugar content of 10 per cent of the weight of the flour included in the dough, and thus exceeds the two per cent specified,” the judgment stipulated. 

Irish law distinguishes “bread as a staple food” from other baked goods that “are, or approach, confectionery or fancy baked goods”. In other words, the court found that Subway’s bread is legally closer to cake than bread.

How did this ruling come about?

The ruling came about in a dispute by Bookfinders Ltd., an Irish Subway franchisee, which contended that some of its takeaway products were not liable for value-added tax. 

According to the country’s law, “staple” foods, such as bread, are liable for value-added taxes to be set at zero per cent. Bookfinders had originally submitted a claim in 2006, asking for a refund for some of the taxes it paid in 2004 and 2005. 

However, the court dismissed the case, stating that Subway’s bread does not fit the requirement for tax-exempt bread under the Value-Added Tax Act of 1972, which states that the bread’s flour can’t have its sugar content exceed two per cent of the weight of flour to be qualified. 

What does Subway say about the ruling?

A spokesperson from Subway disputed the ruling, saying that Subway’s bread is “of course, bread”, and that “[Subway] has been baking fresh bread in [their] restaurants for more than three decades”. 

According to data from Subway, a six-inch Subway bread roll contains three to five grams of sugar, save for its gluten-free options that contain seven grams of sugar. 

Other Subway controversies

This isn’t the first time that Subway’s bread has gotten embroiled in controversy over its food. 

In 2013, the sandwich chain was sued after a viral social media post revealed that its advertised footlongs were less than its stated length. In response, Subway began measuring its sandwiches, but a settlement in the case was dismissed as “utterly worthless”. 

The following year, a food blogger petitioned for the company to remove the flour-whitening agent, azodicarbonamide, from its bread. The chemical is commonly used in the manufacture of yoga mats and carpet underlay, and has been banned by the European Union and Australia from use in food products.

The World Health Organisation has found that azodicarbonamide is linked to asthma. In response to the onslaught of bad publicity, Subway has since removed the use of the chemical in their bread recipe. 





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