Subway: Social Irresponsibility

The Physicians Committee

Subway: Social Irresponsibility

Thinking of heading to Subway to pick up a quick and nutritious lunch?

Don’t let its new ad campaign, fresh slogan, or menu dressing fool you. From its partnerships with top US Olympians and Michelle Obama to its work with the American Heart Association, Subway has been touting itself as the key to staying fit and trim this month. However, dietitians with the Physicians Committee have uncovered several questionable suggestions in Subway’s February campaigns.

Nutrition Facts:

The Italian BMT
138 ingredients: 55 (meat) + 48 (bread) + 4 (cheese) + 5 (vegetables) + 26 (Italian dressing)

The Double Chicken Chopped Salad
100 mg cholesterol
490 mg sodium

Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt
1160 calories
480 calories from fat
2340 mg sodium


Eat Fresh: A Foot-Long Ingredient List

Subway’s slogan promises that customers will “eat fresh,” but a closer look at the menu’s most popular sandwich reveals the opposite. The best-selling Italian BMT consists of three different types of processed meat products: salami, pepperoni, and cured ham. But that’s not all. This $5 Footlong also comes with an unsettling foot-long ingredient list. The BMT on wheat bread with Italian dressing, provolone cheese, and vegetables contains a shocking 138 ingredients.

The three meats alone account for 55 of those ingredients. With an ingredient list like that, Subway’s meat is the opposite of “fresh” and the epitome of processed. Processed meat products have been linked to a host of devastating diseases, including colorectal cancer, heart disease, lung disease, bladder cancer, and diabetes.

A recent study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology even found that people who consume the most processed meat products, compared with those who consume them rarely or never, have a 23 percent greater risk of death. The link between processed meat and disease is clear. Why is a company who prides itself on health promoting a sandwich linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes?

Heart-Healthy: Don’t be Fooled by the Check

Throughout February, Subway has been promoting its menu as heart-healthy by urging customers to “look for the check,” which is the American Heart Association’s designation for heart-healthy meals. One option that has earned the check is the Double Chicken Chopped Salad.

Customers who order this salad might not realize that it actually contains more cholesterol than a Big Mac! The salad’s 100 mg of cholesterol beats out the Big Mac’s 75 mg. Studies have shown that for many people, every 100 mg serving of cholesterol can raise total cholesterol by five points.

Excess amounts of cholesterol in the blood bind to artery walls, forming the plaque that leads to heart disease. By marking the Double Chicken Chopped Salad as heart-healthy, Subway is encouraging its customers to choose dangerous options in the name of health.

Fit Fresh: Athlete Endorsements

Subway premiered a brand new sandwich in February: the Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt. This shockingly unhealthful dish packs chicken, cheese, and fried chips onto a foot-long sandwich roll. It contains 1,160 calories, which is more than six times the amount in a Krispy Kreme doughnut. A staggering 480 of the Enchilada Melt’s calories come from fat.

Surprisingly, Subway has chosen its Olympic athletes, who are the ambassadors of the “Fit Fresh” campaign, to promote this sandwich. The corresponding ad campaign implies that Olympic athletes consume dishes like the Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt and remain fit and healthy.

Multiple studies have shown that exercise cannot erase the negative effects a poor diet has on weight or health. Research has proven that eating just one high-fat meal can raise triglyceride levels, which measure fat in the blood, by 60 percent within two hours.

Conclusion: Pile on the Veggies

The good news is that Subway has recently been making some important strides to make its menu healthier. Its “Pile on the Veggies” campaign is a great first step toward promoting health. Recently, the company also announced that it would be removing the harmful chemical azodicarbonamide from its ingredient list. While that is great news, Physicians Committee dietitians urge them to take it a step further and remove the rest of the harmful, disease-causing ingredients from the menu, including processed meat, cholesterol, and saturated fat.

In the meantime, pile the veggies on a vegetable salad, Veggie Delite, or Falafel Sandwich for a heart-healthy, fresh meal that will give you the power you need to stay fit like an Olympian.