Subway tales and takeaway stories

There is no obligation for any food service outlet to provide for any specialist diet, and those with allergies and intolerances don’t have a right to be catered for by any business.

But you’d think by now, with the gluten-free ‘trend’ well established, the growth in food hypersensitivities well known, vegetarianism and veganism both holding their own, and the paleo movement in the ascendance, that all major outlets would be trying to provide at least an offering or two to those whose approach to food is something more sophisticated than “I’ll eat anything, me”.

Take a major outlet such as Subway, for instance. In my social media streams and searches I regularly spot their customers – and post-diagnosis ex-customers – asking them when they’re going to introduce gluten-free options. They have a stock response to this.


They’ve had this stock response since 2014 …


Hold on, they’ve had it since 2013 …


And yes, there’s a 2012 response in the vaults too, which tells us that for coming up to three years at least, Subway’s supposedly constant search for improvement has failed to throw up a GF option under the mattress. Perhaps they should check down the back of the sofa.

But while ‘free from’ offerings may be optional, declaring which of the 14 key allergens are present in your offerings is certainly obligatory …

Excellent work by the Royal Society for Public Health last week revealed a shocking picture of non-compliance with the EU FIC regulations at London takeaways. Some selected lowlights: 54% of outlets investigated didn’t know whether a major allergen was in a meal; 70% failed to signpost how allergen information could be obtained by consumers; 100% of fried chicken outlets had no written records of allergens used in meals. This news made ITV London last week, and you can read more on it at Michelle’s blog.

On the back of this, someone on Twitter suggested we all stay away from takeaway outlets. I disagree. We should instead make a point of approaching them and checking up on their allergy law compliance, even if we don’t want to order their food. Because it appears that nobody else is doing that, and enforcement seems to be lacking. And if they’re breaking the law, we should politely point it out.

Because while Subway are free to carry on copy-pasting hollow lip service to their potential customers on social media about possible in-the-pipeline free-from offerings which never seem to materialise, all food service outlets without exception need to get with the programme when it comes to EU FIC laws. I’m pleased to say¬†Subway are complying; but dozens of others clearly aren’t. They need to sort it – should we not tell them to?


  1. Hazel Gowland

    Thanks Alex. This was not a difficult study to devise and we must thank the RSPH for finding the resources to undertake and report it so thoroughly. Considering the time and energy required of FA/FI/CD people to source safe meals out, a short conversation with a food business to see what info they have and explanation of what they should have would indeed be an investment. Maybe we should all have this in our pocket to give people. EHOs and TSOs may visit rarely, especially if they consider the food relatively (micro)safe. It may be down to us to educate and inform.

  2. Alex G

    Hi Hazel. I certainly thinking 'informing' yes, but the level of 'education' a consumer can do is limited, I guess. But I do think it's very much worth it to at least raise awareness of their obligations. Once that's on board, one would hope it would motivate them to offering more 'free from' options too!


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