The Subway Tuna Conundrum –


I bear in mind the time when asking the Subway sandwich artist to vary their gloves upon taking my order was an anxiety-inducing second for me each single week by highschool. The dreaded eye roll or sigh of frustration from my pricey sandwich artist was the sacrifice I needed to make to make sure that hint quantities of haram meat -worst of all HAM JUICES!- from earlier prospects’ sandwiches wouldn’t contaminate my in any other case presumably halal seafood sandwich. As it turns nonetheless, in response to a lately filed lawsuit, contamination of a Subway tuna sandwich might go a bit additional up the availability chain than many people beforehand assumed.

The remainder of this text will summarize the allegations of the lawsuit after which talk about (a)the legitimacy of the allegations primarily based on third-party investigations and scientific analysis (b)why this concern is vital to Muslims, and (c) what we are able to do with this data. 

Summary of the Lawsuit

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Two Californians have filed lawsuits in opposition to Subway this 12 months, alleging that Subway’s so-claimed “100% real….wild-caught skipjack tuna regulated by the FDA1” is “completely bereft of tuna as an ingredient.2” The plaintiffs, Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin, collected 20 samples of tuna from 20 totally different places in Southern California after which carried out testing on the Barber Lab at UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The testing confirmed that 95% of the samples had “no detectable tuna DNA sequences” and that rooster, pork, and cattle DNA have been detected in some samples.3  

A Deep Dive into the Subsequent Investigations and Conflicting Results

This lawsuit caught the eye of the New York Times, which began its personal investigation.  After conducting its personal testing, the New York Times discovered “no amplifiable tuna DNA was present” and that they “[could] not identify the species” of no matter meals stuffs the samples contained.4 All testing of Subway tuna sandwiches hasn’t yielded the identical outcomes, nonetheless. Testing carried out by the Inside Edition did establish tuna throughout the tuna sandwich samples despatched to Applied Food Technologies in Florida.5 In 30 DNA checks on 150 kilos of Subway’s tuna, an AFT spokesperson stated, “in every sample tested, we were able to detect skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, or both species.” According to Seafood Source,6 AFT is supplied to correctly establish processed tuna, whereas the opposite labs utilizing PCR DNA testing might not have had the right testing capabilities. USA Today7 has additionally questioned the validity of the New York Times’ investigation

So, what sense can we make from the testing carried out which couldn’t discover any tuna DNA in Subway samples? The New York Times’ lab spokesperson stated, “There’s two conclusions. One, it’s so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn’t make an identification.” This concept is in alignment with scientists who declare the PCR testing is far more efficient in “non-processed [tuna] muscle” and isn’t a dependable methodology to establish the tuna within the Subway samples, which is canned/processed.8 (See Figure 1 above.) The New York Times’ lab spokesperson’s second conclusion? “Or…there’s just nothing there that’s tuna.” The plaintiffs’ testing from the UCLA lab suggests what could be within the samples. Their baffling testing outcomes found “detectable sequences of chicken DNA” in all of the samples, whereas pork DNA was present in 11 samples and cattle DNA in 7.9 Regardless, it’s protected to say that maybe some certified scientists must weigh in on this concern. (Paging Zora Piskata, Eliska Pospisilova, and Gabriela Borilova. 


Subway’s Response to the Lawsuit

What does Subway need to say? Subway has, predictably, denied the claims about its tuna not being actual tuna. In an electronic mail to the New York Times, a Subway spokesperson wrote, “there merely isn’t any reality to the allegations within the grievance that was filed in California. Subway delivers 100% cooked tuna to its eating places, which is blended with mayonnaise and utilized in freshly made sandwiches, wraps, and salads, which might be served to and loved by our company.10“ Subway has been working campaigns to attempt to reassure prospects that the tuna sandwiches they order are certainly produced from tuna. After discussing conflicting lab leads to the earlier part of this text, Subway could possibly be telling the reality. 

Implications for Muslims

Practicing Muslims are most likely alarmed by the doubts forged on the components that make up the tuna salad in Subway sandwiches, and understandably so. With Islamic dietary rulings, it will be important for Muslims to know with certainty what meat they’re consuming with the intention to decide whether or not or not they will think about it to be halal. All of the previously-delighted Muslims who had settled to cater tuna subs from Subway for his or her subsequent masjid occasion (as an alternative of  combating over halal, zabihah halal, and hand-cut zabihah halal) are preparing to attract out their butcher knives for battle. Forget moon-sighting wars, we’re transferring into meat-slaughtering wars now.

On a person degree, there have to be sirens going off in Subway-subsisting readers’ heads proper now –did I eat pork…or alien…sandwiches for lunch every single day this week?! I jest, however the reality stays that it’s essential  for an organization to be, first, conscious of what meals stuffs they’re promoting to “[prevent] and [detect] food adulteration,” and second, to transparently and truthfully disclose what meals stuffs they’re promoting to their prospects -whether prospects’ dietary restrictions stem from spiritual beliefs, private preferences, ecological ethics, or well being considerations like “fish allergies.11” Since many people are extremely far-removed from the unique sources of the meals that we eat every single day, we’ve to depend on the regulation of the meals business to make sure we all know what we’re buying after which consuming. 

Let’s take a fast religious side-step right here. I do know there are readers who’re so pissed off that yet one more meals could be haram in any case. Honestly, I additionally had a significant sandwich artist eye roll after I was requested to put in writing this text. The halal/haram debate can get exhausting and overwhelming, however it’s as a result of nature of the best way meals is produced and consumed in our occasions. The dietary restrictions Allah has positioned on His believers are usually not intensive or difficult; nonetheless, the fact that so many people are to this point faraway from our meals cultivation and creation makes the halal/haram concern an issue as a result of it necessitates additional investigation and care in relation to buying and consuming meals. If it takes slightly additional effort to remain obedient to Allah’s divine guidelines, we are able to hope for a good larger return for our obedience. 

Yemeni food mutabaq sandwich

So, What Next? 

The plaintiffs on the case filed a 3rd amended class-action lawsuit on November 8, 2021 in opposition to the quick meals franchise, after a federal decide dismissed two earlier lawsuits. We’ll have to attend and see how the lawsuit unfolds and if any additional investigations present a conclusive reply. If the testing outcomes from the lawsuit are authentic and enough, may the problem stem from meals dealing with practices inside Subway franchises themselves slightly than a problem within the manufacturing of the tuna?

Regardless–what ought to Muslims observing Islamic dietary guidelines do within the meantime in relation to Subway tuna sandwiches? For now, you may seek the advice of an area or trusted scholar if that is related to you.. We consulted Muslim Matters’ resident scholar, Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim, and he has really helpful that Muslims ought to “avoid [eating Subway tuna for now] due to cross contamination and possible mislabeling of items” as a result of “the principle with meat is [that it’s] haram unless known to be halal.” I additionally contacted American meat skilled, Shaykh Hamzah Maqbul (@hwmaqbul on Twitter) from Halal Food Standards Alliance of America (HFSAA) for his opinion. Shaykh Hamzah stated that he avoids Subway as a rule altogether as a result of “contamination issues. One set of gloves easily touches pork and lettuce several times alternatingly. Changing gloves for a new sandwich will not undo [that contamination.]” My seventeen year-old self is shook in hindsight -maybe I wasn’t being over dramatic about these ham juices. After listening to these opinions, if Subway tuna sandwiches are the love of your life, I’m sorry you must undergo this painful breakup. 

At the top of the day, I’m simply glad that Muslims aren’t the one ones making an enormous stinking tuna about this concern, for a lot of others are additionally disconcerted by the potential for not figuring out precisely what they’re consuming. Becoming extra aware about the place meals comes from, how it’s processed, how we procure it, the environmental prices of meals manufacturing, and well being considerations, have gotten mainstream points in America. For myself personally, I really feel known as to relearn and refresh my understanding of the fundamentals of Islamic dietary rulings and assume critically about how these guidelines operate in the true world. If there’s cross contamination in Subway eating places between meat and greens in its preparation, what about pizza locations and different eating places? It could be time for me to start out asking detailed questions when I’m pondering of consuming out at any specific restaurant, and maybe I received’t be so timid or anxious about it now that I’m older. I assumed this Subway tuna scandal was simply one other scandal that might twister by the Muslim neighborhood and be one I may principally disregard, however it could have opened up a can of…tuna, and maybe rightfully so. 

If you’re additionally trying to study extra in regards to the fiqh of meals, try:

P.S. If you’re hankering for a 100% little question halal tuna sandwich proper about now and don’t know the place to seek out one, attempt my household’s favourite mayo-free tuna salad recipe at dwelling!



  • Tuna Facts, Subway Website. (Footnote 1)
  • “The Big Tuna Sandwich Mystery,” New York Times. (Footnotes 2, 4, 10)
  • “Subway Tuna Contains Chicken, Pork and Cattle, Latest Lawsuit Alleges,” New York Post. (Footnotes 3, 9)
  • “Is Subway’s Tuna Sandwich Actually Made of Tuna?,” Inside Edition. (Footnote 5)
  • “Subway Defends Tuna, Top DNA Lab Asserts Widely-publicized Tests were Inadequate,” Seafood Source. (Footnote 6)
  • Fact Check: Social Media Posts on Subway Tuna DNA Test Lack Context,” USA Today. (Footnote 7)
  • Zora Piskata, Eliska Pospisilova & Gabriela Borilova (2017) Comparative examine of DNA extraction strategies from recent and processed yellowfin tuna muscle tissue, International Journal of Food Properties, 20:sup1, S430-S443, DOI: 10.1080/10942912.2017.1297953 (Footnotes 8, 11)


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