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It turns out the nutirition of a Subway sandwich might not be what we think it is. Ireland has deemed their bread not to be bread.

Don’t look at Subway’s nutrition info: The sandwich giant isn’t so healthy

We think it’s sad we need laws defining what bread is. Shouldn’t bread be bread? You know, flour, yeast, water, simple ingredients to make our sandwiches and give us our nice carb fix? 

Industrial food is the reason we can’t have nice things. To make food tastier, some (American) companies will load their bread with lots of addictive, unhealthy sugar. Enter Subway. While they boast having “eat fresh” meals healthier than other fast food joints, they have a sickly sweet secret. 

Subway’s bread has so much sugar, Ireland ruled in court that the starch used in Subway’s “baked fresh daily” bread was too sweet to consider it bread! What?! How can bread not be bread?! Let’s take a closer look at this starchy story.

Bread & taxes

The ruling comes from a tax break available to food companies in Ireland. If they serve a “food staple”, like bread, they can save themselves some dough. However, that bread needs to rise to the occasion and meet the legal standard for what bread is. 

According to Ireland’s Value-Added Tax Act of 1972, to be considered bread, the sugar & fat in bread must be no more than 2% of the weight of the flour. If the bread meets these qualities & more, the Irish government will leaven a nice tax-exempt status on whoever sells it. (We’re sorry about the bread puns, we can’t resist!)

Unfortunately, Subway’s bread didn’t quite slice it. An Irish court found that Subway’s bread had five times the amount of sugar at 10% the weight of the flour. Therefore, it wouldn’t get a zero VAT tax.

Slicing what bread is

The reason for the distinction is to determine what’s taxable under Ireland’s VAT and what’s not. Ireland doesn’t want to levy a tax on staple foods to ensure everyone can afford essentials (think fruit & veggies, not cake packaged as bread). 

For those of us stateside who have no idea what a VAT is, it’s a value-based tax added to consumer goods, usually in Europe, for the value added to a product along its supply chain. “Every business along the value chain receives a tax credit for the VAT already paid. The end consumer does not, making it a tax on final consumption,” they explained. 

Thus, the taxpayer pays the VAT when they buy a product, so it acts like a sales tax factored into the final price of a product, like a Subway sandwich.

Is Subway bread safe? 

As long as you don’t need to watch your sugar, Subway bread is safe to eat. However, be aware that it has more sugar than you might expect from a savory, carby roll. 

Although The Irish Times elaborates the court’s finding that Subway bread “did not contain ‘bread’ as defined, it could not be said to be ‘food’ for the purpose of the Second Schedule of the Act,” it’s for taxes, not because it’s made from styrofoam.

Or is it? 

Several years ago, someone found out that Subway was using the same chemical found in yoga mats in their bread. According to a 2014 report from USA Today, Subway began phasing out the chemical, azodicarbonamide, from its bread after receiving backlash, criticism, and a petition from customers. 

Azodicarbonamide is a preservative that’s found in a lot of fast food. Per the USA Today article, it could also be found in McDonald’s & Starbucks products. It’s approved by the FDA as a “bleaching agent and dough conditioner”, but also to make rubber shoes & yoga mats more elastic, as pointed out by Vani Hari from 

While the yoga mat days of Subway are long gone, are you concerned about the high sugar content in their bread? Let us know in the comments! 

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