Subway Sandwiches Are Too Sugary To Be Legally Defined As Bread

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 30 Sep 2020 16:32
Subway Sandwiches Are Too Sugary To Be Legally Defined As BreadSubway Sandwiches Are Too Sugary To Be Legally Defined As BreadSubway/Instagram

Typically, people would define bread by its doughy, tasty goodness – but it turns out other things have to be taken into account too.

In a recent legal battle, a five-judge court ruled that Subway’s bread, used for its heated, filled sandwiches, falls outside of the Republic of Ireland’s statutory definition of bread.


Under the VAT Act 1972, the weight of ingredients such as sugar, fat and bread improver should not exceed 2% of the weight of flour in the dough. However, Subway’s bread apparently has a sugar content of 10% of the weight of the flour included in the dough – no wonder it tastes so good.

The legal battle comes after a Subway franchisee in Tuam, County Galway, appealed to the court over the VAT eligibility of some of its products.


The case has been ongoing since 2006, with Bookfinders Ltd claiming it was owed a tax refund. It wanted a refund on the grounds it was subject to VAT at a composite rate of 9.2% when, according the Bookfingers Ltd, the rate should have been zero percent.


The appeal for a refund was denied, causing the company to go to the High Court, which later also denied it. The Courts of Appeal also denied the request.

Despite evidently fighting a losing battle, the Supreme Court decided to hear the company’s appeal because the issues surrounding the construction of the 1972 Act, The Irish Times reports. However, the appeal was dismissed yesterday, September 29.

Supreme Court judge Justice Donal O’Donnell said the intention of the definition of ‘bread’ in the Act was to distinguish between bread as a ‘staple’ food, which should be 0% rated, and other baked goods made from dough.


National Geographic defines staple food, or food staples, as, ‘a food that makes up the dominant part of a population’s diet. Food staples are eaten regularly — even daily — and supply a major proportion of a person’s energy and nutritional needs.’ In Ireland, staple foods have a lower tax rate than non-staple foods. Bread can only be called as a staple food when it has 2% or less sugar content of the weight of the flour.

O’Donnell continued that because Subway’s bread does not fit the Act’s definition of a ‘staple food’, its bread is not eligible for 0% tax, therefore its products will be taxed at 13.5%. He dubbed the appeal ‘ingenious’, and it was later dismissed.

Whether the sandwiches are taxed or not, they still taste pretty good to me.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Food, subway


The Irish Times
  1. The Irish Times

    Subway bread too sweet for the Irish tax authorities