A federal judge has refused to dismiss a Subway customer’s lawsuit accusing the company of misleading its customers on how much tuna is in their tuna sandwich.
Plaintiff Nilima Amin, of Alameda County in California, says that Subway’s claim that its sandwich is “100% tuna” is misleading.
Her lawsuit, which accuses Subway of fraud, cites a study by marine biologists who examined over 20 different samples of tuna from Subway locations. The scientists found “no detectable tuna DNA sequences whatsoever” in 19 of 20 samples while often being able to find traces of pork and chicken DNA.
Subway had asked U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar to dismiss the case on the grounds that any reasonable customer would notice both that cross-contamination is possible in the sandwich-making process and that tuna mixes routinely contain other ingredients such as mayonnaise and eggs.
However, Judge Tigar was not convinced by Subway’s argument and ruled that the accusations “refer to ingredients that a reasonable consumer would not reasonably expect to find in a tuna product.”
Subway, while disappointed by Judge Tigar’s ruling, maintained to National Public Radio that “Subway serves 100% tuna.”
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The controversy surrounding Subway’s tuna has been raging for some time now. The New York Times last June published an investigation that found, similarly to the marine biologists, “no amplifiable tuna DNA” in several samples from different Subway locations.
Subway has completely denied the claims from The Times and Ms. Amin that their sandwich does not contain tuna. The restaurant chain went so far as to create an entire webpage to address the controversy.
“What actually happened is that the New York Times commissioned a test that couldn’t detect tuna DNA in their sample. According to scientific experts, this is not unusual when testing cooked tuna and it absolutely doesn’t mean the sample that was tested contained zero tuna,” the page reads.
The case seems to hinge on what a “reasonable customer” would expect when ordering a tuna sandwich, making the language each side uses incredibly important for the ultimate decision.
The suit alleges that when someone orders a tuna sandwich they should not expect to be given a sandwich with anything else.
Judge Tigar dismissed that claim, saying it is a “fact of life” that things like eggs or bread could be found within a tuna sandwich. But he did allow the suit to go forward on whether the mix contains other meats.