There’s no tuna DNA in Subway’s tuna, lab hired by NYT finds


We have been hornswoggled, folks. Subway hasn’t been selling us lunch, it’s been selling us lies! As you may remember, two California residents were looking for a class action lawsuit against Subway back in January, claiming that Subway did not use tuna or any form of fish in their tuna sandwiches. Subway not only denied this claim, they turned it into a marketing campaign. Since the initial filing, Subway presented information, which caused the plaintiffs to abandon their initial claim. But they filed an amended complaint that the company does not use 100% tuna and that it is not sustainably caught. According to FDA, there are 15 species of fish that can be labeled as tuna in food production. Subway claims to use skipjack and yellowfin. However, when the New York Times did their own investigation, their lab tests showed, “No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA.” Whoops.

The Subway tuna saga continues after a lab study found no evidence of tuna DNA following testing of Subway’s sandwiches and wraps.

The New York Times commissioned to have “more than 60 inches worth of Subway tuna sandwiches” tested by a lab following a lawsuit in January which claimed there’s no real tuna in the chain’s ingredients. The Washington Post was the first to report the allegations made by two California residents – Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin – who filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Samples of the tuna from Subway were picked up from three locations in Los Angeles and a lab conducted a PCR test to determine if the chain restaurant’s tuna included one of five different tuna species, the New York Times revealed. As the outlet notes, the Seafood List compiled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines 15 species of fish that can be labeled as tuna.

Subway claims that they use skipjack and yellowfin tuna, species that the lab used by the New York Times would be able to detect. “No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA,” the lab study concluded. “Therefore, we cannot identify the species.”

The lab spokesperson added: “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.”

When tuna is cooked, its DNA becomes denatured – meaning that test results could be inaccurate due to the change, the New York Times added. Inside Edition similarly commissioned a lab study in February using the tuna from three Subway locations in Queens, New York. Their results concluded that the chain does use real tuna.

[From People]

I’ve been caping for Subway saying this lawsuit wouldn’t go anywhere and it’s done nothing for me, so I’m going to stop weighing in on this. Obviously, the lawsuit wasn’t unfounded. I’m a little surprised Subway’s not taking this more seriously. It’s one thing for me, a gossip blogger, to think this is going to go away, but it’s quite another for a multi-million-dollar company to gamble their reputation by treating it cavalierly. They should have had independent tests run in every state run the minute this broke and prepared a PR campaign with whatever the results were.

I’m interested to see how they dig themselves out of this now. I understand not giving it attention maybe worked in the past, but this is getting bigger. The original lawsuit called into question just what exactly Subway was serving in their tuna sandwich. This investigation certainly did not exonerate them. We process the fish out of our meat is not a slogan one wants to run with. But who knows, maybe we’ll get another cheap sandwich out of their debacle.



Photos via Instagram

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62 Responses to “There’s no tuna DNA in Subway’s tuna, lab hired by NYT finds”

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  1. MsIam says:

    Then what exactly are we eating? Is Subway tuna the SPAM of tuna? Well SPAM is real meat though. I think? Maybe?

    • Haylie says:

      Is it at least fish?

    • Eurydice says:

      The question might also be “Where are we eating?” Because it seems there is tuna in New York, but not in LA.

    • AmB says:

      Sounds like it. Once they make it into “salad” (they tested sandwiches from a shop, so) it’s mixed with so much other glop it’s unrecognizable on a cellular level. Which, yeah, pretty much the same as SPAM.

      • KL says:

        Spam is pork. Aside from the high level of salt and one preservative, it’s actually not very doctored.

      • Seraphina says:

        I am just here to say spam cooked in a skillet in between two pieces of white bread is delish. I know many will recoil in disgust, but it is damn good.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        @Seraphina – Oh yes it is, sometimes i add a hint of mustard.

      • detritus says:

        When they talk about DNA amplification what they mean is that they take samples, process it to remove most adulterants and then use a method that attaches an identifier to the DNA (smaller than cellular) and makes copies of it.

        They won’t likely have used all the tuna salad, but rather smaller samples taken from the 50 ft.

        The issue is that there might be so little actual tuna in the product and/or that the samples weren’t large enough or many enough to catch any tuna chunks.

        When setting up pcr samples you’d often swab something, vortex the swab w a solution and then the liquid from that gets tested. You only need a tiny amount of DNA to detect, but it does need to get on the swab somehow.

  2. mellie says:

    It is one of the more fattening sandwiches on the menu, probably just full of mayo and filler crap…. Same with the seafood salad that they used to have on the menu. Who knows what was really in that stuff. Mystery meat?
    I don’t know what it says about my own personal taste when I say that I always liked the “tuna” salad at Subway 🙁

    • Ellie says:

      I worked at Subway in high school and can confirm it is just full fat mayo and packets of something labeled “100% tuna” – whatever that is. It looked just like packed tuna, so that’s scary. Now that seafood salad stuff they barely even tried to pretend was identifiable food, even then. Mixing it together with the mayo with gloves was a pretty visceral experience that will stick with me my whole life. 🤢

  3. Eurydice says:

    I wonder what “amplifiable DNA” means. I tried looking it up, but I don’t have the background to understand the articles. Does it mean “no evidence”? And I wonder why there is no tuna DNA in Los Angeles, but there is in New York. Very strange.

    • El says:

      Typically amplifying DNA means making lots of copies of the DNA found. If you have a small amount of DNA, there isn’t enough to test. Do you use PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to make more of it or amplify it.

      • Eurydice says:


      • El says:

        You’re very welcome. I’m a biology teacher so I had to control myself and not go off on a long discussion with images and links. I love talking about this stuff.

      • detritus says:

        To add, 5-25 copies of the DNA are usually needed to create good amplification in real time PCR, but even 1 copy can be detected. Larger amounts are needed for traditional PCR or ELISA.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      I think the next step is to check samples at whoever Subway uses as a tuna supplier and then do an analysis of random samples from different lots (in addition to checking the supplier’s records)

  4. Aang says:

    What this tells me is that DNA testing is sketchy. I’m sure that sandwich is tuna or at least some kind of fish. But the contamination and processing make the test invalid. We use this technology to condemn people (black men) to death when who knows how contaminated crime scenes are, how well samples are collected and stored, and how good the labs are.

    • Jo73c says:

      Pretty sure they don’t cook criminal DNA samples and mix with mayo before they do testing.

      • Soapboxpudding says:

        I nearly spit my water out reading this.

      • Aang says:

        Probably not but it might be left in a hot car or contaminated in many other ways. As I mentioned.

      • Lady D says:

        A friend and I ended up leaving our egg mcmuffin from Subway in the truck, in summer. We got back in the truck four hours later, and it did not reek from the two egg sandwiches that sat in the 30C heat all that time. You could barely handle the sandwich, but there was no smell at all. That’s when I quit eating at Subway.

      • Dee says:

        I once made a turkey sandwich on wheat for a road trip and forgot about it. I found it weeks later under the car seat. The heat and lack of humidity just turned it to toast. Never smelled it and I have a sensitive nose. Under dry, arid conditions, just about anything will just dry out. It’s not a “test” for what is nutritious. Honey for instance, doesn’t spoil at all.

  5. Shannon says:

    I stopped eating a Subway years ago. They were never able evolve and it showed in their products and menu. If I eat a sub today, I’ll usually go to Firehouse.

  6. Sam the Pink says:

    In fairness, the DNA wouldn’t show because the supplier cooks the tuna, which denatures the proteins the tests detect. So that is likely why they did not detect DNA. Still, why are you getting tuna from subway? I mean, I’m a vegetarian but if I were to select a meat from Subway, I think the tuna would be way down on the list.

    • El says:

      But DNA isn’t protein. I assume they are looking for small fragments of DNA which is pretty hardy stuff as opposed to doing protein assays.

    • Amy Too says:

      But then how were they able to get tuna dna out of the New York subway sandwiches?

      I also found it interesting that this article says there are 15 types of fish that qualify as tuna, but the lab only tested for 5 of them. Maybe subway uses one of the other 10? Subway said it used skipjack and yellowfin, but we don’t know if those 2 types were included in the 5 types that were tested for. If you’re going to do something like this, why not test for all 15?

    • Lady D says:

      Get this @Sam the Pink, I chose tuna from Subway because I didn’t think they used real meat in their sandwiches. Isn’t that a hoot?

      • Sam the Pink says:

        I always assumed it was some kind of weird mix of different fish – like, I would never presume that it’s sushi-quality tuna. But I assumed that it was at least some kind of marine life. Though I do think “vegan tuna” is a thing – its basically kelp and bonito and other seaweed to create that “fishy” taste. I’ve never felt a need to try it though.

      • Ann says:

        I get the turkey because it’s the least fatty and it looks more….basic than the tuna, or something. I’m sure there’s all kinds of stuff in there but at least it resembles straightforward turkey, which makes me feel better, I guess.

  7. Kelly Lynch says:

    And in Ireland the subways bread has so much sugar, the courts found it to be confectionery

  8. Maria says:

    You can pry my sweet onion chicken teriyaki from my cold dead preservative filled hands is all I have to contribute.

  9. Seraphina says:

    Tuna is a lean protein packed meat. That’s why many eat tuna. Most deli and subshops’ (including Subway) tuna sandwiches are not healthy. They are laden in mayo and other fillers because tuna costs money.

  10. Mette says:

    Gross and not surprising. Fast food is junk food. Mayo makes me want to barf.

    • Aang says:

      I’ve never liked mayo on sandwiches. Butter and Dijon mustard is my go to. I’ve recently discovered ssamjang and that makes an amazing sandwich topping. Chipotle peppers blended with honey also makes yummy sandwiches. I’m betting that’s not even real mayonnaise in that tuna. Probably some generic thing called “sandwich spread” or whatever and made with vegetable oil not eggs.

    • Roo says:

      Mette, your comment makes me think of the Wayans brothers and Mayo sandwiches in White Chicks. 😂

  11. K. Tate says:

    It is tuna, BUT… Subway is it’s own worst enemy. Not a public company so no real push back on all the poor decisions that got them where they are today. The 11” long, the chicken patty that wasn’t chicken, Jared, the rubber mat bread, there are more examples but you get where I’m going. Also, no real menu innovations/additions just a rearranging and saucing up of its already tired menu. Also, too many stores so the franchisees are loosing their shirts trying to stay in business. It wouldn’t surprise me if a franchisee or former franchisee was behind this tuna debacle. I’m so happy I am out of that game.

  12. Golly Gee says:

    This reminds me of the pink slime debacle. People have short memories. Subway will be just fine.

  13. Dottie says:

    Most cities have local family-owned sandwich shops (St. Louis has many of them on The Hill…a wonderful Italian neighborhood near my home). Rather than go to Mystery Meat Express, try one of them. So many places were hurt by the pandemic and supporting them would be great.

    • Heather says:

      I also live in St. Louis and would love to get your suggestions for some local sandwich shops. We are always trying to find new places.

      • Dottie says:

        Well, our favorite is Southwest Market on Southwest & Columbia in the City. We always get the poor boy with the works served hot. Arby’s may say they have the meats but I think Southwest Market really has them! You get a lot of sandwich so you never leave hungry! If you like salami, my guy loves Gioia’s Deli on Macklind Avenue. It’s a true Italian deli. I have heard that a new sandwich joint that is more in the Lindenwood Neighborhood (also south city) is Bubba’s Deli on Ivanhoe. I haven’t been yet but I’ve heard great things! And just up the street is Vinnie’s Italian Beef and Gyros. I enjoyed the beef & my guy said the gyro was good as well. I think that hidden gems nestled within regular neighborhoods are the coolest thing. And that they survived 2020 is even cooler. Hope this helps when you’re in the mood for a sammich!

  14. Tammy says:

    What ever happened with the shrimp in the cereal? That just went away but was it ever resolved?

    • KL says:

      The guy who blasted social media about it is a known troll and, in We Can’t Even Enjoy Weird Stuff on Twitter news, a serial abuser. Several women stepped forward to expose him.

  15. Jo73c says:

    Meh, so cooked fish was tested, knowing that cooking the fish would denature DNA making it difficult to identify and they tested for only 5 of the 15 species of fish allowed to be called tuna.
    Not exactly conclusive evidence, but exactly enough for misleading headlines and out of context social media outrage.

  16. LillyfromLillooet says:

    American fast food was my rescue go to when I was young and traveling through Europe: I knew approximately what was on the menu, approximately what it cost and I was starving and subsisted on cheese bread and fruit at other times. So thank you!

    But in my own country where I’m comfortable and aware of options, I cannot imagine stepping food in any big fast food chain (I do go to Panera, Sweetgreen, there are so many healthy choice national and local chains). For literally decades things come out about fast food: the hamburger meat is filler, the sliced deli meats are full of bacteria, the french fries have embalming fluid, the “milkshakes” are actually not made of of milk.

  17. ME says:

    Meh, all they have to do is bring back their “footlong for 5 bucks” deal and no one will care. Has anyone tested other food places like McDonald’s? God knows what we are eating.

    • Lady D says:

      My son’s grandfather was offered a job running a 500K head cattle ranch in Australia. This was back in the late 80’s but part of the job was shipping that beef back to Canada and the States. I don’t know what they are using 40 years later. Might be tuna for all we know:)

      • eb says:

        I think in the 80s there was a scandal of beef from Australia containing kangaroo meat. This was for McDonald’s(?).

      • Lady D says:

        Well that’s horrible. Poor flipping creatures.
        My f-i-l never did take the job. He has a phobia about spiders and someone showed him a picture of a huntsman spider. I wonder who thought it was a good idea to make human hunter in their name? They either had a phobia or a sick sense of humour.

      • ElleV says:

        can I just say, before anyone sheds too many tears for the kangaroos:

        – Kangaroos are waaaaay overpopulated
        – Most people I knew growing up fed their dogs and cats raw kangaroo meat
        – Kangaroo meat is low in fat, high in iron and zinc, high in protein, and a source of omega-3
        – It’s a more sustainable meat choice because kangaroos emit less methane than cattle or sheep and need much less water
        – I’ve eaten kangaroo and it’s nothing to write home about (pretty tough if you overcook)

        Long story short – it’s not horrible, it’s just cheap novelty meat. If I found out it was mixed in with beef, I’d be annoyed at the false marketing, but no more grossed out than if I found out there was bison or venison mixed in there, too.

    • detritus says:

      I think Cargill provides the beef for many fast food restaurants, and it’s real beef.

      Cargill is not publicly traded, private family owned companies, very secretive and doesn’t treat their employees or most likely the livestock well.

  18. Chris says:

    Subway is gross and new that their spokesperson was a pedophile and ignored it. I have not eaten there in years and never will. I grew up by two bakeries and the smell of bread baking is glorious- yet subway reeks. That was always a bad sign to me.

    • Juliette says:

      Totally second all of this. I never liked Subway but then the Jared Fogle disgustingness, the yoga mat material in buns and now this not tuna in tuna thing. You can’t convince me that they didn’t know about Jared for years and ignored it because they were making so much money. Just confirms for me why I haven’t gone there in 20+ years and never will.

      There are far better sandwich shops to go that are far better quality. There was a couple of Subways near us that were changing best before dates on food (particularly chicken) and they were ordered to hide expired food products in their personal vehicles while restaurant inspections are being conducted.

      Gross and never!

  19. Starkille says:

    Anyone who willingly eats fast food deserves what they get, quite frankly. GROSS.

    • Jillie says:

      Kind of rude. Some fast food is great. In n out for one. This type of blanket comment is pretty lame. I guess I deserve what I get lol

    • Kalana says:

      @Starkille, have you heard of food deserts? And that’s just one reason why you might want to rethink your comment.

      It’s a dumb reason to have aggression towards someone. “oh, you eat fast food? You deserve what you get!”

  20. Jess says:

    I read that they only tested for 5 of 12 DNA possibilities for fish considered tuna, plus it’s cooked and so mixed up, I wouldn’t expect intact DNA anyways. Tuna is literally the cheapest of the cheap…this isn’t sushi grade sashimi, I’m sure it’s actual tuna. Subway doesn’t have anything to gain from this

  21. Barbiem says:

    My bet is Tuna is used. In very small amounts.
    Its a fast food sub joint. Of course the meat is suspicious.