Subway bread– if you can call it that

Since fast food chain Subway first opened its doors in 1965, its patrons have enjoyed its sandwiches without questioning their ingredients. As long as they were serving quality food, what was there to worry about? Until now, nothing. However, a recent court ruling on Subway’s bread contents may raise some new concerns among its consumers.

According to a ruling by the Irish Supreme Court on Sept. 29, the bread contains too much sugar to be legally classified as bread. While this decision may seem nonviable, it has less to do with concerns over health and safety and more to do with concerns over escaping taxation.

This taxation comes in the form of Ireland’s VAT, or value-added tax. According to Investopedia, a value-added tax is “a consumption tax placed on a product whenever value is added at each stage of the supply chain, from production to the point of sale. The amount of VAT that the user pays is on the cost of the product, less any of the costs of materials used in the product that have already been taxed.”

Concern about Subway’s bread was brought about because of a claim made by Bookfinders Ltd., a franchisee of Subway, in 2006. According to this case’s judgement record, Bookfinders “sought a refund for VAT payments made from the period January/February 2004 to November/December 2005 at a composite rate of 9.2%, which Bookfinders claimed should instead have been subjected to 0% VAT.” The claim called Ireland’s VAT into question, and after a closer re-examination of the tax law, it was found that “staple foods” are exempt from Ireland’s Value-Added Tax Act of 1972.

Bookfinders Ltd. were arguing that Subway’s bread should be counted as a “staple food” and thus should be exempt from the tax. However, as the court pointed out, their VAT states that there are a number of requirements a food item has to meet to be considered staple, and that there are more for bread. One of them being that bread is “subject to the limitation that the weight of any ingredient specified in this subclause (those being fat, sugar and bread improver) shall not exceed 2 percent of the weight of flour included in the dough.”

It has been confirmed and reported by multiple sources that Subway’s bread’s sugar content is equal to 10% of it’s flour’s weight, meaning that under the VAT’s rules, it can’t legally be considered bread, and by extension, a staple food.

As such, the appeal to refund Bookfinder’s taxes was dismissed.

Since the ruling, it has been reported by The Washington Post that Subway has been “reviewing the ruling,” and had earlier sent a spokesperson to their station who simply said “Subway’s bread is, of course, bread.”

However, as also reported by the Washington Post, many nutrition experts also wish to weigh in on Subway’s bread and its sugar content.

One such expert, Timothy Harlan, has stated that this ruling has revealed “A terrible fact about our ultra-processed food supply and things like Subway bread… you really don’t need that much sugar there.”

Other accounts come from diabetic educator Alisa Scherban: “What is happening is that sugar is really going into a lot of foods unnecessarily, so that they sell and that they’re super-hyper-palatable for people.”

Media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Amy Kimberlain explains that the extra sugar “gives a richness to bread flavor without that noticeable sweetness… Can you get by with less? For sure. It’s a taste preference.”

This new information may be alarming to some. Besides just being generally off putting that so much sugar can be snuck into your diet without knowledge, but that it’s gone unacknowledged for so long, and that Subway seemingly wants it to stay that way, from the way they didn’t respond to any questions regarding their bread’s sugar content.

The fact that there has been so much sugar unaccounted for in Subway’s bread can cause concern among those with dietary restrictions and the possible issues or emergencies that can stem from them.

Guilford College has a diverse population of students who buy food from different spots on and off campus, including Subway. Guilfordians with dietary issues, those trying to watch their weight or those who just don’t feel comfortable ingesting that much sugar could find this information unnerving.

Whatever the case may be, look out for any extra sugar in your foods, as well as an official response from Subway. Hopefully, the end of this situation will not be as sweet as its beginning.