Subway Suing Over News Story Claiming Its Chicken Is Largely Soy

Subway has already vehemently denied a recent Canadian news report alleging that the sandwich chain’s chicken is only 50% meat, but the company is now going a step further, accusing the broadcaster of defamation and seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

The New York Post reports that Subway filed court papers in Canada this week against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, alleging that the CBC’s story on Subway’s chicken was “defamatory and absolutely false.” Subway has said it intends to seek $210 million in damages, though it’s currently unclear if that amount is in U.S. or Canadian dollars.

A rep for Subway confirmed the lawsuit, saying that the company sought legal recourse after CBC Marketplace failed to retract the earlier report.

“Despite our efforts to share the facts with the CBC about the high quality of our chicken and to express our strong objections to their inaccurate claims, they have not issued a retraction, as we requested,” the rep tells the Post, adding that the chain is committed to seeing the report is corrected.

While Subway did not provide additional comment on the lawsuit, a franchisee in Canada tells the Post that he’s worried that publicity from the CBC report could cause company sales to suffer.

A CBC spokesperson tells the Post that it is aware of the lawsuit, but has not yet received a copy of it.

“We believe our journalism to be sound and there is no evidence that we’ve seen that would lead us to change our position,” the rep said.

The chicken showdown began in late February when CBC Marketplace aired a segment claiming that DNA testing showed that Subway’s chicken only contains around 50% chicken, with the rest made up mostly of soy.

Subway countered the report last week with science of its own, saying that two independent tests confirmed the meat was actually chicken.

“The allegation that our chicken is only 50% chicken is 100% wrong,” Subway President and CEO Suzanne Greco said in a statement at the time.

The tests, conducted by Maxxam Analytics in Canada and Elisa Technologies, Inc. in Florida, used an enzyme-linked process to quantify how much soy was in Subway’s chicken.

The two labs conducted separate tests to determine the amount of soy protein in the chicken samples. One lab used an antibody that binds to soy flour proteins, while another test used known concentrations of soy proteins for comparison. Both labs determined that less than 1% soy protein was present in all samples. Subway claims that this 1% is a result of marinades and spices used on the chicken.

With the results in hand, Subway once again claimed that CBC Marketplace used factually incorrect data to suggest the chicken Subway serves might not be all chicken.

“The claims made in the story are false and misleading,” CEO Greco said last week. “We use only chicken – with added spices, seasoning and marinade. Producing high-quality food for our customers is our highest priority.”