If you’re a fan of Subway’s tuna sandwich, you may have heard the recent controversy surrounding its ingredients. But beyond the legal drama, there’s a more pressing concern for health-conscious consumers: does Subway tuna have mercury?
As one of the most popular fish in the world, tuna is known for its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients. However, it’s also notorious for its potential mercury content, which can have harmful effects on the body if consumed in excess.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Subway’s tuna and explore whether it’s a safe and healthy choice for your next sandwich.
Does Subway Tuna Have Mercury?
According to Subway’s website, the company only sells skipjack and yellowfin tuna, which are sourced from fisheries with non-threatened stock levels. Skipjack tuna, in particular, is classified by the US FDA as a “best option” due to its low mercury content. In fact, skipjack tuna has just 0.144 parts per million of mercury in its flesh.
While it’s true that some species of tuna, such as bluefin and bigeye, are heavily fished and have critically endangered or endangered status, Subway claims that it does not sell these types of tuna.
It’s important to note that while canned tuna is a popular and convenient option for many people, it can also contain significant levels of mercury. Yellowfin tuna, in particular, is known to have higher mercury content than other species of tuna.
However, the key to safely consuming tuna is moderation. The FDA recommends limiting consumption of high-mercury fish to 2-3 servings (8-12 ounces) per week. This applies to all types of tuna, including skipjack and yellowfin.
Understanding Mercury In Tuna
Mercury is a heavy metal that can be found in various forms in the environment. One of the most toxic forms of mercury is methylmercury, which is produced when mercury is released by industrial or natural sources. This form of mercury accumulates in fish, especially in large predatory fish like tuna, which feed on smaller fish already contaminated with varying amounts of mercury.
Mercury is not easily excreted by the body and builds up in the tissues of tuna over time. This means that larger and older tuna species such as albacore contain higher levels of mercury than smaller species like skipjack and yellowfin.
The average level of mercury in the US seafood supply is 0.086 parts per million, while canned light tuna has an average level of 0.118 parts per million, which is 37% higher than the overall average. This makes canned light tuna the biggest single source of methylmercury exposure in the American diet, accounting for 16% of the mercury in the seafood supply.
It’s important to note that while some canned tuna products may have high levels of mercury, others may have lower levels. The Mercury Policy Project found a wide range of mercury levels in both light and white tuna from government-sponsored school lunch programs. Some canned albacore/white tuna tested had almost four times the average level of mercury reported by the FDA.
To minimize your exposure to mercury while still enjoying the health benefits of tuna, it’s recommended to choose lower-mercury fish that are also rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids, such as skipjack and yellowfin tuna. It’s also important to consume all types of tuna in moderation and limit consumption to 2-3 servings (8-12 ounces) per week, as recommended by the FDA.
The Subway Tuna Controversy Explained
Recently, Subway has been facing a class-action lawsuit in California that claims its tuna sandwiches “are completely bereft of tuna as an ingredient.” The lawsuit alleges that Subway misled customers by claiming its sandwiches and other products contain “tuna” and “100% tuna.” The plaintiffs cite a marine biologist who analyzed 20 samples of tuna offerings from 20 different Subway restaurants and found “no detectable tuna DNA sequences whatsoever” in 19 samples. However, the samples did contain other types of animal DNA, such as from chicken and pork.
Subway has denied the allegations, stating that it delivers 100% cooked tuna to its restaurants, which is mixed with mayonnaise and used in freshly made sandwiches, wraps, salads that are served to and enjoyed by customers. The company claims that the lawsuit constitutes a reckless and improper attack on Subway’s brand and goodwill, and on the livelihood of its California franchisees.
The controversy has raised questions about food labeling, adulteration, and traceability. The New York Times commissioned a study that sent “more than 60 inches worth of Subway tuna sandwiches” to a lab for testing. The study concluded that “no ample tuna DNA was present in the sample, and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA, therefore we cannot identify the species.” However, an earlier study by Inside Edition had found tuna in the sandwiches purchased.
Despite the controversy surrounding Subway’s tuna sandwiches, there is no evidence to suggest that they contain mercury. According to Subway’s website, the company only sells skipjack and yellowfin tuna, which are sourced from fisheries with non-threatened stock levels. Skipjack tuna has just 0.144 parts per million of mercury in its flesh, making it a low-mercury option.
Subway’s Response To The Controversy
Subway has faced recent controversy regarding its tuna sandwiches, with a class-action lawsuit claiming that the sandwiches do not contain any tuna. In response, Subway has vehemently denied these claims, stating that its tuna sandwiches are made with 100% real tuna. The company has also pointed out that it sources its tuna from fisheries with non-threatened stock levels and only uses skipjack and yellowfin tuna in its sandwiches.
Subway has also emphasized the importance of moderation when it comes to consuming tuna, noting that all types of tuna can contain significant levels of mercury. The company encourages customers to follow FDA guidelines, which recommend limiting consumption of high-mercury fish to 2-3 servings per week. Subway has also stated that it regularly tests its tuna products to ensure that they meet FDA standards for mercury levels.
Independent Tests: What Do They Reveal?
The controversy surrounding Subway’s tuna sandwiches has led to independent testing to determine whether the sandwiches actually contain tuna. The New York Times conducted a lab test of 60 inches of tuna sandwiches from three Subway restaurants in Los Angeles, California. However, the testing detected no tuna in the sandwiches. The results could mean that Subway’s tuna is so heavily processed that, if there is tuna in the company’s sandwiches, it couldn’t be clearly identified. Alternatively, the results could mean that there is no tuna in the sandwiches at all. Another test conducted by Applied Food Technologies found that Subway’s sandwiches did contain tuna, but the results were not conclusive.
The class-action lawsuit filed against Subway in California claims that its tuna sandwiches “are completely bereft of tuna as an ingredient.” The lawsuit also questions Subway’s claims of using 100 percent sustainably-caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna. The plaintiffs argue that Subway cannot support those claims since the “tuna” used in Subway’s California-based locations comes to each restaurant in a sealed vacuum bag that has been prepackaged outside the United States. As a result, the restaurant chain lacks “a reliable and standardized protocol to ensure that the contents of these sealed vacuum bags are actually tuna.”
It’s important to note that seafood fraud is a notorious type of food fraud in the world. A report earlier this year from The Guardian found that over a third of seafood products were mislabeled with these issues occurring throughout the entire supply chain. So while independent tests may provide some insight into what is actually in Subway’s tuna sandwiches, it’s difficult to know for sure without a reliable and standardized protocol for ensuring the contents of the sealed vacuum bags are indeed tuna.
How To Minimize Your Mercury Exposure From Tuna
If you’re concerned about mercury exposure from tuna, there are a few steps you can take to minimize your risk:
1. Know your tuna: As mentioned earlier, skipjack tuna is a “best option” due to its low mercury content. Yellowfin tuna, on the other hand, has higher levels of mercury. If you’re worried about mercury exposure, opt for skipjack tuna instead.
2. Limit your consumption: The FDA recommends limiting consumption of high-mercury fish to 2-3 servings (8-12 ounces) per week. This applies to all types of tuna, including skipjack and yellowfin. If you eat tuna frequently, consider reducing your intake or switching to a lower-mercury fish.
3. Choose smaller tuna: Larger fish, such as bluefin and bigeye tuna, tend to have higher levels of mercury due to their longer lifespan and higher position in the food chain. Choosing smaller tuna, such as skipjack or albacore, can help reduce your exposure.
4. Consider canned vs. fresh: Canned tuna is generally lower in mercury than fresh tuna, as the canning process removes some of the mercury. If you’re concerned about mercury exposure, consider choosing canned tuna over fresh.
5. Check the source: Make sure to choose tuna that is sourced from fisheries with non-threatened stock levels. Subway claims that their tuna is sourced from such fisheries, but if you’re buying elsewhere, do some research to ensure that the fish is sustainably sourced.
By following these tips, you can enjoy the health benefits of tuna while minimizing your exposure to mercury.
Other Healthy Options At Subway
If you’re looking for other healthy options at Subway, there are plenty of choices. The sandwich chain offers a variety of fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and whole-grain bread options that can make for a nutritious meal.
For example, you can try the Veggie Delite sandwich, which is loaded with fresh veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers. You can also add avocado to your sandwich for some healthy fats.
Another option is the Oven Roasted Chicken sandwich, which features tender chicken breast meat that is low in fat and high in protein. You can also add spinach and other veggies to your sandwich for added nutrition.
If you’re looking for a salad, Subway offers a variety of options that are packed with fresh greens and veggies. You can customize your salad with your choice of protein, such as chicken or turkey breast, and top it off with a variety of healthy dressings.
Finally, Subway also offers a variety of sides that can make for a healthy snack or addition to your meal. For example, you can try the apple slices or the yogurt parfait for a sweet treat that won’t derail your healthy eating goals.