Subway chicken sandwich

Subway defends chicken after Canadian broadcaster’s report

CBC “Marketplace” tests find questionable amounts of chicken DNA in some items

Subway is strongly defending its chicken after tests by “Marketplace,” a program by Canadian broadcaster CBC Television, found that the chain’s oven-roasted chicken and chicken strips contained questionable amounts of chicken DNA. 

Milford, Conn.-based Subway said Wednesday that two independent laboratories tested its chicken after the Feb. 24 broadcast, and found the report “false and misleading.”

Toronto-based “Marketplace,” said it was standing by its report, and released additional details about the study’s methodology.

"The stunningly flawed test by ‘Marketplace’ is a tremendous disservice to our customers,” said Suzanne Greco, Subway president and CEO, in a statement Wednesday.

“The safety, quality and integrity of our food is the foundation of our business,” Greco said. “That's why we took extra caution to test and retest the chicken. Our customers can have confidence in our food. The allegation that our chicken is only 50-percent chicken is 100-percent wrong.”

The 22-minute “Marketplace” report conducted DNA tests on grilled and roasted un-battered chicken from A&W, McDonald’s, Subway, Tim Hortons and Wendy’s. The DNA lab at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, conducted the tests.

“While most of the samples were found to contain close to 100-percent chicken DNA, Subway sandwiches contained substantially less than the other chains,” “Marketplace” said in a post Wednesday. “Tests showed an average of 53.6-percent chicken DNA for the oven-roasted chicken and 42.8 percent for the chicken strips.”

The remainder was plant-based protein, such as soy.

“Marketplace” said it initially tested three samples from Subway: two from the oven-roasted chicken and one from the chicken strips. 

“Each piece of chicken was broken down into three smaller samples, which were individually tested,” Marketplace said in a report. “The lab also retested these samples a second time.” 

The Subway chicken produced “markedly different” results, so the lab tested 10 subsequent samples, five of the oven-roasted chicken and five of the chicken strips. Samples were gathered from multiple locations across Southern Ontario.

“The repeated tests all reinforced the lab's initial assessment,” Marketplace said. “The results reported by CBC were the combined average of the results of all three tests.”

The lab also tested samples from all chains for plant DNA, and found that about half the DNA in the chicken samples from Subway were of plant origin, the majority of which was soy.

In a press release Wednesday, Subway said test results from laboratories in Canada and the United States “clearly show that the Canadian chicken products tested had only trace amounts of soy, contradicting the accusations made during the broadcast of CBC Marketplace.”

Subway said it sent samples of the Canadian products cited in the program to the labs Maxxam Analytics in Canada and Elisa Technologies Inc. in Florida. 

“The results from both labs found soy protein below 10 ppm [parts per million], or less than 1 percent, in all tested samples,” Subway said. “These findings are consistent with the low levels of soy protein that we add with the spices and marinade to help keep the products moist and flavorful.” 

Dave Theno, Subway's chief of food safety and quality, said in the statement: "Our chicken is 100-percent white meat with seasonings, marinated, cooked and delivered to our restaurants. The chicken has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Through years of testing, we've never seen results like the program claimed. 

Subway said it shared the results of the independent tests with “Marketplace” and the labs that conducted the original test.

“The company is demanding a retraction and apology,” Subway said. 

Subway has created a microsite on its Canadian website to address the issue.

At the microsite, Subway said its oven-roasted chicken is made from chicken breast meat, water, seasoning (sea salt, sugar, chicken stock, salt, flavors, canola oil, onion powder, garlic powder, spice, chicken fat, honey), soy protein and sodium phosphates.

The chicken strips are made from boneless-skinless chicken breasts, water, soy protein concentrate, modified potato starch, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, salt, maltodextrin, yeast extract, flavors, spices, dextrose, onion powder, caramelized sugar, paprika, chicken broth, vinegar solids and paprika extract.

Subway has more than 44,600 franchised locations in 112 countries.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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