Why This Country Says Subway Sandwiches Don't Technically Contain Bread

You know that Subway smell? It's instantly recognizable — you could put a blindfold on somebody, walk them into the store, and one sniff, yep, that's a Subway. This smell is due to the fact that, true to their advertising, Subway really does bake their own bread on-site; or at least, they bake something all right. Something that does in fact look very much like bread and, as far as the United States is concerned, if it looks like bread, smells like bread (even the very distinctive variety known to Subway alone), and can be sliced open, slathered with sauces, and piled high with toppings like bread, we'll all just agree to call it bread and not inquire any further into its particulars.

In Ireland, though, they take their foodstuffs way more seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the Independent reports their Supreme Court itself has ruled that Subway's, uh, sandwich bases do not meet their legal standards of what constitutes bread. Their reason? The product contains far too much sugar.

The Irish Supreme Court ruled against Subway's "bread"

In Ireland, as in many other EU countries, there's such a thing as value-added tax (VAT) which Investopedia defines as a consumption tax placed on a product where the value increases as it moves up the supply chain from raw material to consumer-ready. Ireland does exempt certain foods — defined as staples — from such a tax, and one Galway-based Subway franchisee decided to challenge the VAT payments the restaurant had been making (and, undoubtedly, passing on to customers in turn) on their sandwiches. The Subway owner claimed that sandwiches are made with bread and bread is a staple, therefore their product should be eligible for tax-free status.

The Irish government, however, begged to differ. They analyzed Subway's bread dough and found that it contains too much sugar to be classified as bread under the nation's laws. The amount of sweetener in bread can't exceed two percent of the amount of flour, and the high sugar content in Subway's product puts it in more of a dessert category and makes it a non-staple, taxable food product. As to how this ruling will affect Subway's bottom line (here or in Ireland) we're guessing not at all. After all, this was just one franchisee's quest to reclaim money already paid to the government, and they probably didn't intend to issue tax refunds to customers. Still, it's interesting to note that Subway's actually been in the vanguard when it comes to the pastry-based sandwich trend all along.