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Subway sues Canadian television over chicken claim

Chain seeks $210M in damages over CBC report that its chicken is half soy products

Subway is taking claims that its chicken breast is only half chicken to court.

The Milford, Conn.-based sandwich chain said it is suing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation over a February report claiming that tests showed its chicken breast was made up of 50-percent soy products.

Subway confirmed the lawsuit in an email statement on Friday. The New York Post first reported news of the legal action.

“We have issued a Notice of Action in Canada against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that asks for $210 million in damages over allegations made by its program, Marketplace, that are defamatory and absolutely false,” the company said.

“Despite our efforts to share the facts with the CBC about the high quality of our chicken and to express our strong objections to their inaccurate claims, they have not issued a retraction, as we requested. Serving high-quality food to our customers is our top priority, and we are committed to seeing that this factually incorrect report is corrected.”

CBC confirmed that it received a Notice of Action from Subway Franchise Systems of Canada Ltd., related to the Marketplace episode.

“We believe our journalism to be sound, and there is no evidence that we’ve seen that would lead us to change our position,” a spokeswoman said in an email statement on Friday.

Subway has come out forcefully in defense of its chicken since the Feb. 24 “Marketplace” segment reported that tests found an average of 53.6 percent chicken DNA in the chain’s oven-roasted chicken. The chicken strips had 42.8 percent chicken, the report said. The rest was plant-based protein, such as soy.

The report was part of a broader story, involving a lab that conducted DNA testing on grilled and roasted chicken from A&W, McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and Wendy’s, as well as Subway.

Subway responded with tests of its own from two independent labs in the U.S. and Canada, showing only trace amounts of soy in the Canadian chicken products.

“Our customers have confidence in our food,” Subway president and CEO Suzanne Greco said in a statement at the time. “The allegation that our chicken is only 50-percent chicken is 100-percent wrong.”

The allegations came at a tough time for Subway, which is working to recover from sales declines in recent years.

Subway has also worked to bolster its reputation for quality. The chain introduced new premium items last year, and in 2015 vowed to eliminate antibiotics from its chicken.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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