Court rules Subway sandwiches too sugary to meet legal definition of ‘bread’

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Ireland’s highest court isn’t sweet on tax breaks for footlongs.

The country’s Supreme Court ruled that the starch used in Subway sandwiches is too sugary to meet the definition of “bread” — a legal distinction that would have saved the firm some dough.

In deciding whether to give the fast-food chain a tax break for serving a “staple” food item, the five-judge panel ruled that the bread’s sugar-to-flour content is roughly five times too high to qualify, according to the Irish Independent.

For a company to be taxed zero percent, under the Value-Added Tax Act of 1972, the weight of sugar and fat in a bread product must not be more than 2 percent of the total weight of flour in the dough.

But the dough baked for Subway sandwiches has a sugar content of roughly 10 percent the weight of its flour content, the outlet reported.

In its decision, the court rejected arguments by a Subway franchise owner, Bookfinders in Galway, that that the restaurant was not required to meet the standard on to-go items such as heated sandwiches, teas and coffees.

Bookfinders had demanded a refund for past years’ taxes in an appeal of a 2006 case.

While shooting down the legal challenge, Justice Donal O’Donnell said the definition of “bread” was established to distinguish the starch from other baked goods, such as cookies or brownies, that aren’t healthy enough to be considered essential.

Christopher Sadowski

All six of the company’s bread options — Italian white bread, Italian herbs and cheese, nine-grain wheat, hearty Italian, nine-grain multi-seed, and honey oat — were deemed too sugary by the court to qualify as bread.

According to nutrition facts posted by the Subway, a 6-inch white bread roll has 5 grams of sugar — similar to that of an Oreo cookie.