Lawsuit claims Milford-based Subway used fake tuna in sandwiches

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Subway customers claim that tests on tuna sandwiches sold at multiple shops in California did not contain tuna at all.

The plaintiffs are asking a judge to certify the lawsuit for class-action status that would allow others to seek redress, citing no target amount they are seeking except to say it will be in excess of $5 million.

Subway, based in Milford, is the world’s largest restaurant chain with more than 41,000 locations it franchises to independent owners. Late founder Fred DeLuca made it perhaps Connecticut’s most-recognizable home-grown brand globally.

As of Thursday morning, Subway had yet to file an answering response to the complaint, which was filed a week ago in the U.S. Federal Court for the Northern District of California.

Katia Noll, Subway’s senior director for food safey and quality, told The Washington Post its sandwiches contain “pure tuna” with the company stating the claims in the lawsuit are without merit. In a statement forwarded by Subway’s head of public relations Maggie Truax, the company called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said it plans to contest it.

“The taste and quality of our tuna make it one of Subway’s most popular products and these baseless accusations threaten to damage our franchisees, small business owners who work tirelessly to uphold the high standards that Subway sets for all of its products, including its tuna,” the Subway statement read. “Given the facts, the lawsuit constitutes a reckless and improper attack on Subway’s brand and goodwill, and on the livelihood of its California franchisees.

“This lawsuit is part of a trend in which the ... plaintiffs’ attorneys have been targeting the food industry in an effort to make a name for themselves in that space,” the statement continued. “Subway will vigorously defend itself against these and any other baseless efforts to mischaracterize and tarnish the high-quality products that Subway and its franchisees provide to their customers, in California and around the world, and intends to fight these claims through all available avenues if they are not immediately dismissed.”

An attorney representing plaintiffs did not respond to a Washington Post query on what ingredients were revealed in the tests ordered by plaintiffs. The plaintiffs assert that the Subway tuna sandwiches and wraps they had tested have “no scintilla of tuna at all,” in the lawsuit’s words.

Levying accusations of “unjust enrichment” among other claims of misleading customers, Plaintiffs want Subway to pay back any profits on tuna sandwiches sold.

The plaintiff’s lead attorney brought on a law firm with offices in Los Angeles, Houston and New York City that the state of Texas hired in December to lead a high-profile lawsuit against Google that includes attorneys general from 38 states including Connecticut AG William Tong.

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman