Subway cries foul on reports questioning its chicken

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A Subway sweet onion chicken teriyaki sandwich. In sandwiches sold at Subway, the “chicken” contained less than 50 percent poultry, according to a university laboratory and a Canadian journalist.

What’s in your fast-food chicken sandwich?

A Canadian journalist and a university laboratory ran an analysis only to discover that in some cases, it ain’t chicken.

In sandwiches sold at Subway, the world’s most ubiquitous restaurant chain, the “chicken” contained less than 50 percent poultry. That had the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Marketplace program calling “foul.”

The broadcaster hired Trent University to run tests on chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Subway, Tim Hortons and A&W. Most of Subway’s competitors came back with results reporting the meat contained 85 to 90 percent chicken DNA. Subway’s oven-roasted chicken returned only 53.6 percent chicken, and the chicken strips contained even less, with just 42.8 percent avian flesh. The rest was soy, seasonings and sugar.

Subway Canada disputed the results in a statement, according to Zero Hedge.

“SUBWAY Canada cannot confirm the veracity of the results of the lab testing you had conducted,” the company said, adding, “Our chicken strips and oven roasted chicken contain 1% or less of soy protein. We use this ingredient in these products as a means to help stabilize the texture and moisture. All of our chicken items are made from 100% white meat chicken which is marinated, oven roasted and grilled.”

According to the CBC, the results were so unusual they ran tests on a half-dozen more orders of Subway chicken. All the tests generated the same results.

Subway, according to the Washington Post’s Consumer Affairs blog, dismissed the data as “unreliable and factually incorrect” and is insisting on a full retraction.

According to a company statement, "two independent laboratories testing Subway chicken have found that alleged test results broadcast on Feb. 24 by the Canadian Television show, Marketplace, were false and misleading."

"Subway sent samples of the Canadian products that Marketplace claimed contained 50% soy protein to Maxxam Analytics in Canada and Elisa Technologies, Inc., in Florida.

 The results from both labs found soy protein below 10 ppm, or less than 1%, in all tested samples. These findings are consistent with the low levels of soy protein that we add with the spices and marinade to help keep the products moist and flavorful ....The allegation that our chicken is only 50% chicken is 100% wrong," said SUBWAY President and CEO Suzanne Greco.

 Restaurant inspectors in Philadelphia and other cities don’t look for this kind of thing, instead focusing on health and general sanitation. For the Inquirer’s ongoing coverage of restaurant cleanliness, click here.