Subway tuna lawsuit is dismissed, but ruling says nothing about Subway’s tuna


The Great Subway Tuna Debate is dead.

Or at least it would seem after a federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit that had originally claimed Subway’s tuna sandwich was “made from anything but tuna.” The plaintiffs in the case, Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin, residents of Alameda County in the Bay Area, had sued the world’s largest sandwich chain alleging fraud, intentional misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and other claims under federal and California state laws. The judge’s dismissal was not based on any findings about the content of the tuna sandwiches, but he ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t meet a legal standard to sue.

“We commend the court for dismissing the reckless and improper lawsuit surrounding Subway’s tuna,” Subway said in a statement forwarded to The Washington Post.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that based on independent lab tests of “multiple samples” purchased from Subway locations in California, the tuna in question was a “a mixture of various concoctions that do not constitute tuna, yet have been blended together by defendants to imitate the appearance of tuna.”

The New York Times reported that the lawsuit was later amended to narrow the claims. “In a new filing from June,” Julia Carmel wrote, “their complaints centered not on whether Subway’s tuna was tuna at all, but whether it was ‘100% sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna.’ ”

The lawsuit sparked a widespread debate about Subway’s tuna: whether it was 100 percent wild-caught tuna, as the company claimed, or some other kind of fish. Or even fish at all. The debate inspired more questions than answers among the public, even as Subway stood fast by its product, claiming the tuna was “high-quality, premium and 100% real.” The chain even launched a page,, to counter what it said was public misinformation.

The complaint inspired at least two media outlets to test the tuna. Inside Edition tested samples from three Subway locations, and a lab determined each one contained tuna. But the Times also tested a sample and found that “no amplifiable tuna DNA was present,” although that could be because the sample was so processed that testing equipment couldn’t detect the species.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar’s ruling said nothing about Subway’s tuna. Instead, the judge ruled that the plaintiffs had not met a required legal standard: that they purchased the products based on misrepresentations by Subway.

“To meet the heightened pleading standard, plaintiffs still need to describe the specific statements they saw and relied upon, when they saw the statements, and where the statements appeared. Because they fail to do so, the complaint does not satisfy the . . . standard,” Tigar noted in his ruling.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment, but according to a Bloomberg Law story, Patrick McNicholas, an attorney for Dhanowa and Amin, “suggested they could amend the filing to bring it up to pleading standards.”



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