Subway: Lab Unable to Detect Tuna in Chain's Tuna Sandwiches

The results are in! Five months after reports first surfaced questioning the true content of Subway's tuna, a New York Times-commissioned lab study found no evidence of tuna DNA in the chain's tuna sandwiches. The results follow results from a similar test ran by Inside Edition in February that confirmed the presence of tuna.

In the New York Times' test, "more than 60 inches worth of Subway tuna sandwiches" from three different Subway locations in Los Angeles were tested in a lab. After purchasing the tuna, a reporter for the outlet removed and froze the tuna and sent it to an unidentified commercial food testing lab, where a PCR test was conducted to determine if Subway's tuna included one of five different tuna species. The Seafood List compiled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines 15 species of fish that can be labeled as tuna, and the restaurant chain claims they use skipjack and yellowfin tuna. However, the lab said it could not detect any tuna DNA in the samples.

"No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA. Therefore, we cannot identify the species," the lab study concluded, with a lab spokesperson adding, "There's two conclusions. One, it's so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn't make an identification. Or we got some and there's just nothing there that's tuna."

The Times noted in its report that tuna DNA becomes denatured when it is cold, meaning the lab results could be inaccurate. Responding to the results in an emailed statement to the Times, Subway maintained that it "delivers 100 percent cooked tuna to its restaurants, which is mixed with mayonnaise and used in freshly made sandwiches, wraps and salads that are served to and enjoyed by our guests."


The test was carried out as Subway faces a class-action lawsuit claiming that independent lab tests show the tuna is "made from anything but tuna." The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by plaintiffs Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin in January. The plaintiffs alleged they had independent lab tests done for "multiple samples" of sandwiches and salads from Subway, which found the "tuna" is really a mix of "various concoctions that do not constitute tuna." The plaintiffs accused Subway of fraud, intentional misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and other federal and state law violations, stating that they "were tricked into buying food items that wholly lacked the ingredients they reasonably thought they were purchasing."