Subway Sued Over Alleged Tuna-less Tuna Sandwiches; It Fights Back With New Ads

Two California consumers sued Subway in January for selling tuna sandwiches and wraps that allegedly had no tuna in them.

Subway tuna


According to the complaint

Defendants consistently advertise the Products as “tuna.” However, Defendants’ labeling and marketing scheme for the Products is blatantly false. As independent testing has repeatedly affirmed, the Products are made from anything but tuna. On the contrary, the Products are 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. Defendants identified, labeled and advertised the Products as “tuna” to consumers, when in fact they were not tuna.

The lawsuit provided no other specifics as to the actual content of the sandwiches, but repeatedly asserts that “the Products entirely lack any trace of tuna as a component…”

A check of the ingredients statement on the Subway website, however, lists the ingredients of their tuna salad as having tuna as its primary ingredient.


Subway ingredients

To try to figure out what was really going on here, we asked one of the consumers’ two law firms for a copy of the full complaint twice, but they would not provide it. Then we asked the other law firm representing the consumers for more specifics including what the tests they conducted revealed, and whether the complaint is based on a technical violation of the federal definition of what constitutes tuna fish. They responded saying they were not answering media questions at this stage of the case.

However, we did get a response from Subway with their comments.

“Our restaurants receive pure tuna, mix it with mayonnaise and serve [it] on a freshly made sandwich to our guests.” –Subway spokesperson

Digging around a little more, we found a video shot last summer by a Subway employee who was mixing up a batch of tuna for their sandwiches which shows the actual source of the tuna.


Subway tuna package

The package is clearly labeled as “tuna” and the only other ingredients in that package are water and salt. And as noted by the Subway spokesperson, and confirmed by the video, mayonnaise is the only other thing added.

As it comes out of the package, the tuna somewhat resembles “pink slime” — the pink mash from beef bone scrapings that McDonald’s was accused of using in hamburgers years ago. The tuna version of this is called “tuna scrape” — back meat scraped off tuna bones. We asked Subway twice if they use “tuna scrape” but they did not respond.

However, over this past weekend, the company did start a national advertising campaign addressing the tuna issue head-on:

Subway 100%

Clearly, there is something fishy going on… but we just don’t know what. Stay tuned.

We invite you to offer your opinion in the comments section below about this case. Is Subway actually trying to pull a fast one on customers as the law firms allege, or could the lawyers be mistaken? And what is the actual proof underlying the claims that the lawyers won’t reveal?

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17 thoughts on “Subway Sued Over Alleged Tuna-less Tuna Sandwiches; It Fights Back With New Ads”

  1. My first thought when I saw this lawsuit was that this should be really easy for Subway to disprove. I’m not a lawyer but in my opinion the lawsuit would have packed more punch if they would have released right away what they found in the tuna salad instead of being vague.

    • I would fully agree. The image supplied in this posts says the Tuna used by Subway is Flaked Light Tuna in Brine.

      To me this says they are something like Chunk Light Tuna that a company like Bumblebee sells.

      I would love to know what the people suing Subway says is really in the Tuna.

    • Agreed. The lack any specifics on this case make me suspicious that Edgar is right. This case may not be “Subway doesn’t sell tuna.” and maybe instead “What Subway sells as tuna, really is tuna, but doesn’t fit this oddly specific definition of what tuna “should” be.

      Edgar replies: Joel, I offered the definitional problem as one possible basis for the plaintiff’s claim. If the tuna really isn’t fish as the lawyers seem to claim, then the definition could be the actual basis of their claim. I personally don’t believe there is no fish in their “concoction.” In a CBS interview that I saw online, the lawyers said their tests could not identify what the tuna actual was. This is why, at least at the moment, I am leaning toward thinking that the tests the lawyers did were not accurate. I also think Subway may be withholding some information about the tuna at the moment that will eventually come out.

    • I assume Subway could countersue for libel. What damages they might be able to collect is another question. If Subway is on the up-and-up and if they manage this situation properly, they might come out of it with more customers than they had before.

      • You can’t counter-sue for libel based on allegations in a lawsuit. “Litigation privilege” as it’s called.

    • i see the case filing but nothing about what the test revealed or which lab did the test. if we can find that out it might be a bit more revealing.

      after all how can a good lab do a test and not know results ?
      did test results indicate it was a fish, a mammal, a plant ?

      not many options. once identified as one of those then it can be narrowed down and identified.

  2. I like the taste of their tuna subs and eat about one per week. I’d like to think they are healthier than a lot of other food.

  3. I think anyone knows there is tuna, and there is TUNA. A can of white solid tuna in water is so different from “chunk light tuna,” in color, in taste, and in price, and since I grew up eating fresh and home canned tuna (lived in SoCal), I use them for different recipes. I’m sure Subway is using 100% tuna (since they’re claiming it), but I can tell you it’s not from solid white fish, it’s the darker, less attractive fish flakes.

      • WOW ! seems every big company is scamming ! just keep scrolling through the videos ! love the car dealer repair scams.

        seems like they should be sued for lying and get dealership shut down. no wonder so many of the owners have multiple dealerships. they make a fortune scamming unknowing and sadly trusting customers.

        sadly the govt agencies we have to watch out for us just write regulations that benefit that protect the scammers not to customers.

  4. I’ve worked at several subways. It’s tuna, people. Some subways use a large foil package of tuna and some use a large can of tuna. But it IS tuna.

  5. if they had nothing to hide they would respond. only reason not to respond is something going on they do not want people to know.

    one gigantic issue for consumers is what lobbyist have cajoled the govt into stating what is considered a legal product even though most people would not buy or serve it except as pet food.

  6. I am admittedly fussy about Tuna. Very few restaurants serve Tuna salad that is other than just OK, and at some, it’s not a pleasant experience at all. In the three state area of CT, MA, and RI, I have only found one restaurant with tuna salad I actually long for. Unfortunately, it’s in Taunton where I used to work, and I live in central RI. But I will make the hour long round trip to Whittenton House of Pizza once in a while just for their tuna grinder or tuna salad.

    As for Subway, I had their tuna once. That was enough. That TicTok video will probably do more damage to their reputation than the law suits.

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