Irish Supreme Court Rules That Subway “Bread” Is Not Technically Bread

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Ireland’s Supreme Court ruled that the bread sold at Subway can not legally be considered bread, making it no longer a staple food item. This ruling was followed by an appeal by Bookfinders Ltd., an Irish Subway franchise. They argued that the bread used in their sandwiches should be considered a staple food, and should be exempted from the Value-Added Tax Act of 1972 (VAT). This tax has a standard of what’s considered a staple, and is added to food items that aren’t considered necessary, such as ice cream, chips, chocolate,etc. This VAT is in place because the Irish government doesn’t want to tax staple foods in order to keep them more affordable. 

Contrary to what Bookfinders Ltd. claimed, the court said, “In this case, there is no dispute that the bread supplied by Subway in its heated sandwiches has a sugar content of 10% of the weight of the flour included in the dough.” The maximum percentage of sugar allowed to be considered a staple is 2% of the weight of the flour.

Even before this case, the court had actually raised the percentage of sugar allowed in order for an item to be technically considered bread. Bread historian William Rubel claims that changes, such as the amount of sugar or salt in foods, change as our tastes change, and we continue to crave more sugar, salt, fat, etc. 

Additionally, when Bookfinders Ltd. took their request to court they claimed “they were owed a refund from January/February 2004 to November/December 2005, when they paid VAT at a composite rate of 9.2%. They argued that they should instead have been subjected to 0% VAT.” 

Bookfinders also argued that some of their take away products like tea, heated sandwiches, and coffee shouldn’t qualify for VAT. However, Mr. Justice O’Donnell disagreed with them, and disregarded their appeal.