The court found that Subway’s bread—its namesake and quite possibly the basis of its entire healthy image—could not, in fact, be defined as bread because its sugar content was too high.
The ruling came after the franchise sought exemption from Irish taxes, arguing that their bread counted as a staple food and, as a result, should not be taxed.
The country’s Value-Added Tax (VAT) Act of 1972 declares staple foods (including real, fresh bread) as not liable for value-added tax. But the VAT also declares that tax-exempt bread can't have a sugar content that exceeds 2% of the weight of flour. In Subway's recipe, sugar makes up 10% of the weight of the flour, or five times what the law deems acceptable.
The franchisee asked for tax refunds in 2006, arguing that their bread counted as a staple food and should be exempt from VAT. But, as the court pointed out in the final ruling, the law distinguishes "bread as a staple food" from other baked goods that "are, or approach, confectionery or fancy baked goods." And based on Subway’s high volumes of sugar in its bread, it legally falls under the fancy, sugary, unnecessary baked goods category.
Specifically, it falls into the category of “discretionary indulgence.” In other words, Subway bread is legally more in line with cake than with actual bread.
Unhealthy adaptations of traditional staple foods are the bottom line of the fast-food industry; the key is realizing this and not falling for the health-like tactics. Just as it’s important to read the food labels on items (or opt for 1-ingredient foods altogether), it’s equally as vital to be aware of the ingredients being put into the foods at these fast-food, quick-fix restaurants.
Rather than load up on a 12-inch cake, why not bake fresh, healthy low carb bread? Of course, that’s only if time permits. If it doesn’t, go with a Subway salad bowl and load up on all of the vegetables. Because it’s carbs. And in this case, they aren’t even the real thing.