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Meet the New Subway

August 17, 2012

My plate is full of things to talk about. I promised a post on GMOs and corn this week. There was the one about how to cook a fool proof and delicious filet mignon. And I also had hoped to find a way to mention the grass fed bone in rib eye at Creo, just in case you had a bunch of money burning a hole in your pocket, and you wanted to try some of chef Brian’s cow.

But all of those are going to have to wait because just yesterday, John The Subway Guy brought it to my attention that Subway had recently revised its list of ingredients in the U.S. and that perhaps my assertions in The Good Way vs. The Subway were no longer valid.

And since then I find myself once again picking my jaw up off the floor at what passes for food at our Nation’s largest chain of sandwich shops. The good news is that Subway has indeed taken the high fructose corn syrup out of their breads. You know what? That’s actually something to be proud about. Try finding bread that doesn’t use HFCS in the grocery aisle. It’s really freaking hard. Now try to find a hotdog bun. It’s next to impossible.

If there is other good news on that list, it’s not immediately apparent. Please allow me to share with you some of the more egregious items on this most recent round of product formulations.

Monterey Jack cheese
Cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, artificial color

I don’t go to Subway. The Monterey Jack cheese I know is white. Does it really need to be whiter? I don’t get it. And if it’s colored something else besides white, what the heck is wrong with white cheese? I totally don’t get this.

Ham may contain seasoning
Potassium chloride, pork stock, sugar, yeast extract, salt, lactic acid, fructose, sunflower oil, cysteine HCL, calcium lactate, modified food starch, flavors, grill flavor (from sunflower oil), polysorbate 80, rendered pork fat, and smoke flavor

Mind you, these are sixteen ingredients that the ham may or may not contain. Why it would need smoke flavor as part of the “seasoning” when the ham itself is actually made with “smoke flavoring” is beyond me. As is the notion of “grill flavor” that is separate and distinct thing.

Meatball seasoning
Soy protein concentrate, breadcrumbs (bleached wheat flour, sugar, salt, soybean oil, dried yeast), dehydrated onion and garlic, salt, spice, dehydrated parsley, caramel color

How soy protein and breadcrumbs can be called “seasoning” is beyond me. Look, we all know there are breadcrumbs in meatballs. That’s part of the deal. But soy protein concentrate? And more of that than the breadcrumbs? How many people do you think would be surprised to find out that there is even less meat in these meatballs than they expected? And the marinara sauce they are served with, is sweetened with both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.

Premium Egg Blend
Isolated pea product, salt, citric acid, dextrose, guar gum, xanthan gum, extractive of spice, propylene glycol and not more than 2% calcium silicate and glycerin to prevent caking

I don’t quite understand what this is, but it’s added to their Egg Omelet Patty (regular). It comes after whole eggs, egg whites, water, and nonfat dry milk. And it’s followed by soybean oil, butter alternative (liquid and hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors, beta carotene (color), TBHQ and citric acid added to protect flavor, dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent added), Salt, Beta-Carotene (color).

Artificial Butter Oil
Soybean oil, artificial flavor

Why this comes as part of the Egg White Omelet Patty is a mystery. I’m also kind of curious why they don’t just use “artificial butter flavor” like they do in the croutons and add that to soybean oil. Maybe if soybean oil and “artificial butter flavor” mix bad things happen? We’ll just have to chalk this one up as one of life’s mysteries.

Fat Free Honey Mustard
High Fructose corn syrup, water, prepared mustard (distilled vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt), Dijon mustard (distilled vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, white wine, citric acid, turmeric, spices, tartaric acid), country Dijon mustard (distilled vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, white wine, spice), distilled vinegar, honey, food starch-modified, cider vinegar, contains less than 2% of lemon juice concentrate, salt, phosphoric acid, artificial color (titanium dioxide), sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (as preservatives), xanthan gum, dehydrated onion, egg yolks, dehydrated garlic, caramel color

I do wonder how little honey this needs to contain to actually be called honey mustard, but I’m certain someone at Subway knows. Calling this “Fat Free HFCS Mustard” doesn’t quite have the same healthful ring, does it?

Raspberry Cheesecake
Enriched bleached flour (flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, margarine (palm oil, water, soybean oil, salt, mono-and diglycerides, natural flavor, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene), white chips (sugar, palm kernel and palm oil, nonfat dry milk, soy lecithin, vanilla), eggs, raspberry bits (dextrose, palm oil, sugar, corn flour, raspberry powder, natural flavor, citric acid, blueberry and carrot extracts), neufchatel cheese (pasteurized milk and cream, cheese culture, salt, stabilizer [carob bean and/or guar and/or xanthan gums]), invert sugar, maltodextrin, natural and artificial flavors, baking soda, potassium chloride, yellow 5

The joke here is that even with all these ingredients, there isn’t a single raspberry in the entire damn thing. Well, that and the fact there is even less cheese than there are “raspberry bits” which apparently is shorthand for sweetened, raspberry flavored corn flour.

And none of this even touches on the dough conditioners, the sheer quantity of natural and artificial flavors and colors, and the conditions at the factory farms that supply their meat.

John The Subway Guy (who I understand is a fine and upright fellow) went on record at Table Hopping with the following quote, “When you sell 1.3 billion cookies per year, I guess you have to have use more than 5 ingredients.”

You know who makes a lot of cookie’s? Tate’s. And I bet for Subway, they would scale up production. They are pretty damn good too, and made from semi-sweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin- an emulsifier, vanilla, natural flavor), unbleached flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, malted barley flour), butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, baking soda, salt, vanilla extract, and water.

The point here isn’t the number of ingredients, it’s the nature of the ingredients. And the honesty of the ingredients. So I’m glad that Subway has been trying to improve. But they’ve got a long way to go.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Stevo permalink
    August 17, 2012 8:10 am

    My company’s HR dept. as part of an effort to promote healthier living has a program where if you exercise at least 150 minutes each week they put your name in the hat for a drawing. The prize? A Subway gift card.

  2. August 17, 2012 9:19 am

    I am an infrequent Subway patron but my 15 year old loves the place, and he orders straight turkey which does not seem to have made it onto your list of shame. One thing I always notice is the delicious vinegary odor that permeates the place. Presumably that’s from food engineering too. Can you find out how they do it?

    • August 17, 2012 10:24 am

      Hah, I know a few people who won’t go into Subway because of that odor. It definitely seems piped in and not a byproduct of the actual food they’re serving. To me, it doesn’t smell like a sandwich, and I’ve never smelled that smell in better sub shops.

      • August 18, 2012 10:26 am

        I am one of those people! That odor makes me want to vomit.

    • August 17, 2012 10:39 am

      My first job was at Subway and I know that odor you’re talking about. I’m relatively sure it’s the smell of the bread proofing. The frozen bread loaves gave off that odor after putting them in the proofer as they started to rise.

      • August 18, 2012 10:27 am

        I could be wrong, but I feel like bread should not smell that way. I mean, it doesn’t smell like that in Prinzo’s, for example.

  3. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    August 17, 2012 10:33 am

    My son may spend the fall on an Indian rez where literally the only food option less than an hour’s drive is Subway!

  4. christine permalink
    August 17, 2012 11:33 am

    I can’t stand Subway subs! Since I’m not usually fussy about food, I’m not really sure why. The only thing I can pin point is that they always put a ton of shredded lettuce on the damn things. I like a little crunch but they usually go overboard and instead of meat and cheese I end up eating a lettuce sandwich. I guess I could ask for less lettuce…or none at all.

    I seldom eat there, almost never, but when I have I feel like I’m eating fake food. And, don’t even get me going about the fake, premade eggs. Just like Dunkin Donuts- if you don’t have a griddle or a frying pan to crack open an egg and cook it fresh, DON’T SELL BREAKFAST SANDWICHES. There, I feel much better now.

  5. August 17, 2012 1:57 pm

    Subway is the disappointment king of all food outlets, I think. Their food always looks so good in the ads! And then you eat it and you’re like “damn, they fooled me again… this tastes awful, a pile of overprocessed junk, ick.” But months later, you see another ad and think, “man, that sub looks good… maybe I should get one.” I know food always looks beautiful, ’cause of food styling, but while I don’t expect it to taste like a miracle on a sub roll, I expect it to at least taste decent, passable, and it never does.

  6. August 18, 2012 10:28 am

    I would be curious to know what is in their “avocado” spread. It certainly looks way too vibrantly green and processed to be 100% avocado …

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