July 11 (Reuters) – A federal judge said Subway could be sued for allegedly deceiving customers about its tuna products, including a claim it uses other fish species, chicken, pork, and cattle instead of the advertised “100% tuna.”
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco called it premature to accept Subway’s argument that any presence of non-tuna DNA might result from eggs in mayonnaise or cross-contact with other ingredients that its restaurants’ employees handle. like the company’s Eat Fresh Refresh Campaign, the demand for Subway’s tuna continues to offer new surprises, providing more reason to revisit the chain and the way it builds a sandwich.
Last week, a federal judge refused to dismiss parts of the amended tuna lawsuit, the third brought by Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. in its November complaint residents of Alameda County in the Bay Area alleged that Subway’s marketing materials and labeling misled them “into purchasing premium-priced entrees based on the representation that the tuna products contained only tuna and any other species of fish, animal products or miscellaneous ingredients”.
In the filing, the plaintiffs alleged that 19 of the 20 samples collected from Subway locations in Southern California contained “no detectable tuna DNA sequences whatsoever,” based on DNA barcoding tests conducted by the Barber Lab at UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. They also alleged that all 20 samples contained “detectable sequences of chicken DNA,” while 11 samples contained pork DNA and seven included cattle DNA.
Then, as now, Subway disputed the allegations, saying the fish in its sandwiches is 100 percent wild-caught tuna. What’s more, in December, the company’s lawyers filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar to dismiss the suit with prejudice.
The judge also said the plaintiff Nilima Amin, an Alameda County resident who claimed to order Subway tuna products more than 100 times from 2013 to 2019, could try to prove that the salads, sandwiches, and wraps “wholly lack” tuna.
He rejected Amin’s argument that “reasonable consumers” would expect only tuna and nothing else, calling it a “fact of life” that tuna products could contain mayonnaise and bread. Tigar also dismissed another plaintiff from the case. In a statement, Subway said it “serves 100% tuna” and was disappointed the “reckless and improper” lawsuit could continue.
“We are confident that Subway will prevail when the court has an opportunity to consider all the evidence,” it added. Many people cannot eat various meats because of diet or religious concerns.
The lawsuit seeks damages for fraud and violating California consumer protection laws. Tigar dismissed an earlier version last November.
The case is Amin et al v Subway Restaurants Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 21-00498.