Ireland’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the rolls used in American giant Subway’s hot sandwiches could not be defined as bread because they contain too much sugar, The Guardian reported. Ireland’s highest court made the ruling based on how bread is taxed.
The court was hearing a plea by Bookfinders Limited, an Irish franchisee of Subway. The company argued that the bread used in Subway sandwiches counted as a staple food and was consequently exempt from Value Added Tax, or VAT.
But the court pointed out that UK’s Value-Added Tax Act of 1972 distinguishes staple foods – bread, tea, coffee, cocoa, milk and “preparations or extracts of meat or eggs” – from “more discretionary indulgences” such as ice-cream, chocolate and pastries. The law adds that breads that are to be exempted from the VAT regime cannot have sugar exceeding 2% of the weight of flour.
“In this case, there is no dispute that the bread supplied by Subway in its heated sandwiches has a sugar content of 10% of the weight of the flour included in the dough,” the court observed. In other words, the court found that Subway’s bread is perhaps legally closer to cake than bread.
“The argument depends on the acceptance of the prior contention that the Subway heated sandwich contains ‘bread’ as defined, and therefore can be said to be food for the purposes of the second schedule rather than confectionery,” the court said. “Since that argument has been rejected, this subsidiary argument must fail.”
After the ruling, Subway in a statement said that “Subway’s bread is, of course, bread,” BBC reported. “We have been baking fresh bread in our stores for more than three decades and our guests return each day for sandwiches made on bread that smells as good as it tastes,” the company added.
A six-inch Subway bread roll contains three to five grams of sugar, except for gluten-free ones, which has seven grams of it, according to data from the company.
This is not the first time that Subway’s brand has been riddled with controversy. In 2014, Subway announced it will remove flour whitening agent, azodicarbonamide, from its baked goods. The ingredient is commonly used in the manufacture of yoga mats and carpet underlay and has been banned by the European Union and Australia from use in food products.