Subway moves the needle on antibiotics, but many questions remain

Subway is hearing the ever-louder cry for its leadership when it comes to reducing antibiotics in its meat and poultry supply. Last Monday, NRDC commissioned a full-size billboard near the company's corporate offices, challenging antibiotic use in its supply chain. In recent months, US PIRG, The Food Babe, Friends of the Earth and others put out their own calls for action by the restaurant giant. A few days after the billboard went live, the company updated its website with the following statement:

"Our commitment to serve high quality, affordable food to our customers has always been a cornerstone of the SUBWAY® brand. We support the elimination of sub -therapeutic use of antibiotics. Elimination will take time and we continue to work with our suppliers to reach that goal."

Then, last Friday, Nation's Restaurant News reported that Subway has plans in the works to phase out chicken produced without medically-important antibiotics in 2016. This is important progress! But we need to see action from Subway across their entire supply chain, especially turkey, which holds such a prominent place on Subway menus. And although information about Subway's antibiotics plan is slowly trickling into the public domain, the details and timelines of their overarching policy remains a mystery (a media statement on this topic was issued today by public interest advocates, including NRDC).

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. We have no idea what Subway really means by "support the elimination of sub-therapeutic uses of antibiotics." Does "support" imply a commitment to end these uses? How does Subway define sub-therapeutic use? In the NRN story, the Subway spokesperson says that the company is "...targeting to transition to chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine in 2016." What does "targeting to transition" entail? When in 2016 will the shift on chicken occur? Who will provide third-party verification around these changes? Most importantly, when will Subway make these commitments official?

We have more questions than answers at this point. We are eager for more details
on statements made to date, as well as the release of a comprehensive, clear, time-bound antibiotics policy that covers Subway's entire meat and poultry supply chain. We recognize change takes time, but we think Subway should be transparent now about its plans and commitments.

After all, when it comes to protecting the antibiotics toolkit for human medicine, concrete commitments and tangible timelines are what's needed to make a difference.


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