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Subway Responds to Public Pressure, Details Plans to Remove Antibiotics from Meat Supply

October 20, 2015
Center for Food Safety

October 20, 2015 (WASHINGTON, DC)--Center for Food Safety (CFS) today commended Subway Restaurants for announcing its plan to eliminate the use of antibiotics in much of the company’s meat supply chain. Subway’s announcement comes just two days before consumer and environmental groups intended to deliver over a quarter of a million petitions signatures calling on Subway to make clear, strong commitments to reduce antibiotics in their meat supply. Those groups include CFS, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, U.S.PIRG, and FoodBabe.com. In September, many of those groups released a scorecard report, ranking Subway and the other top 25 restaurant chains on their antibiotics policy. At the time, Subway received a failing grade. 

“Subway has an opportunity to set a high standard for the rest of the industry to follow, and it is imperative that the company continue to move forward on antibiotics intentionally and responsibly,” said Rebecca Spector, west coast director at CFS. “We are pleased that the company has made a clear, time-bound commitment to phase out the use of antibiotics by its suppliers.”

This summer, the same groups had issued a joint letter asking the company to clarify its earlier vague statement on antibiotics by providing the public with a detailed and time-bound policy, including plans for adopting third-party auditing. The announcement today makes no mention of how the company plans to audit or report to the public on its progress. Subway's "no antibiotics ever" policy announced today also deviates from the specific request to eliminate routine use for growth promotion and disease prevention. CFS and many others continue to support the therapeutic treatment of sick animals using antibiotics when determined necessary by a licensed veterinarian to ensure animal welfare.

“As a next step, Subway must clarify the mechanisms by which they will verify that suppliers are complying with the company’s policies. This is paramount to establishing a reliable supply of meat from animals raised without irresponsible usage of antibiotics and for securing the trust of a skeptical public,” said Cameron Harsh, researcher at Center for Food Safety. 

Subway’s latest statement confirms that the company is beginning to transition to serving meat raised without antibiotics and establishes specific deadlines for that process. SUBWAY will begin serving some chicken raised without antibiotics in March 2016, committing to accomplish the same for all chicken in all of its stores by the end of 2016. Turkey raised without antibiotics will begin to be available that same year, with the transition to be completed within 2-3 years, followed by pork and beef within six years after that. 

Subway’s announcement marks one of the most substantial commitments on antibiotics from a U.S. fast food chain for two reasons. First, the company has the most domestic locations of any restaurant chain. Second, it has surpassed commitments by other chains, such as McDonald’s, by imposing timelines for all animals, not just chicken. 

Last week, CFS released a new report, “America’s Secret Animal Drug Problem: How lack of transparency is endangering human health and animal welfare,” examining thecurrent available safety information on commonly used animal drugs, including antibiotics. 

The market continues to respond to public pressure for better practices in raising animals for food. As Subway and others make public commitments, CFS will continue to advocate for meaningful change that protects animal welfare, public health, and the environment. 

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