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The Events That Led To Subway’s Breaking Antibiotics Announcement (Get all the juicy details!)

I had my bags packed and ready to go to deliver over 250,000 petition signatures with several consumer advocacy groups to Subway headquarters this week but all my plans came to an abrupt halt.

Subway just announced that they have committed to eliminating the use of antibiotics in ALL of their meat in the U.S. – and they also provided a timeline. It’s never felt so good to cancel my plans!

Subway Commits To Sell All Meat Raised Without Antibiotics

This is an enormous victory, given the sorry state of antibiotic usage on factory farms! According to reports, all of Subway’s meat will be antibiotic-free within 10 years (but most of it sooner).

Here’s what Subway’s timeline looks like, according to their press release:

  • Chicken: Starting in March 2016 they’ll start serving antibiotic-free chicken, and will shift their entire chicken supply by the end of 2016.
  • Turkey: Starting sometime in 2016, it’s expected to be completely antibiotic-free within 2-3 years.
  • Pork: Within 6 years after the turkey is transitioned (so in about 10 years or 2025)
  • Beef: Within 6 years after the turkey is transitioned (so in about 10 years or 2025)

Although this seems like it will take forever, this commitment is huge.

Subway’s decision is a major wake up call to other restaurant chains who are not responsibly sourcing meat and this will send shock waves through the entire meat industry. This has the power to transform how meat is raised in this country, and I can see these changes happening quicker when other companies follow suit. 

Subway is the largest fast food chain in the world with about 27k restaurants in the U.S. Their suppliers will no longer be able to rely on antibiotics to produce bigger animals and to keep their animals from getting sick from the poor conditions that they are raised in.

Unlike McDonald’s who is just removing human-use antibiotics from their chicken (with no word on their pork or beef) while still allowing antibiotics to be used for disease prevention – Subway is stopping the use of all antibiotics in all of their meat. This means they will have to address the underlying factory farming conditions that keep these animals alive, albeit drugged up, in horrible conditions. 

“We are excited to see the world’s largest restaurant chain take this game-changing step that will create a seismic shift in the industry. However, the devil is in the details. To do this right, Subway needs to work with its suppliers to improve management practices and change the unsanitary confinement conditions that cause animals to get sick in the first place,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager with Friends of the Earth. “Over time, we hope that Subway will shift its sourcing of meat away from confinement-based polluting factory farms toward more sustainable pasture-based livestock systems that are healthier for people, animals and the environment.” 

This news comes on the heels of the announcement that we were headed to their headquarters to drop off petitions…

Subway facebook

Over 36,000 of you signed and shared this petition that I started in August demanding that Subway eliminate the routine use of antibiotics from their entire supply chain. This petition was launched in conjunction with other petitions started by the consumer advocacy groups (U.S. PIRGNRDCCenter for Food SafetyFriends of the Earth and others) that I’ve been working closely with for the last year. All of these petitions received a total of over 250,000 signatures! 

When we sent letters to Subway, asking them for a clear antibiotics use policy and timeline, they bascially ignored us, refused to meet and didn’t show any signs that they were taking our requests seriously.

That’s why we made a plan to deliver all of the 250,000+ signed petitions personally to Subway Headquarters in Milford, CT this Thursday, October 22nd, 2015.

Subway clearly didn’t want this to happen.

Here’s the short timeline of events that led up to this change:

April 2015 – Sent initial letter to Subway 

May 2015 – US PIRG launches campaign

June 23, 2015 – Sent another letter with over 60 groups signed, US PIRG launches petition

July 2015 – Friends of the Earth launches petition

August 24-26, 2015 – FoodBabe.com, NRDC, and The Center For Food Safety launch petitions and nationwide campaigns

August 28, 2015 – Media reports that Subway “supports the elimination of sub-theraputic antibiotics” with no further details

August 31, 2015 – Sent letter to Subway asking for clear antibiotics policy and timeline

October 8, 2015 – Sent letter to Subway to announce that we will deliver petitions to headquarters and request an in person meeting to discuss policy and timeline

October 11, 2015 – Announced trip to deliver petitions to Subway headquarters publicly on social media

October 20, 2015 – Subway makes commitment to stop selling meat that is raised with antibiotics and publishes timeline

This is more proof that signing petitions makes a difference!

It’s people like you that are willing to take the simple act of signing a petition and sharing it, that is truly changing the food landscape in this country. Just a few short months ago, Subway was silent on this issue and didn’t want to take a stand, and now everything has changed because of you making your voice heard!

This isn’t just a win for the Food Babe Army but it’s a win for ordinary citizens and activists everywhere that have been working tirelessly on this issue. No matter who you are – vegan, vegetarian, or organic foodie – you could be infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, which kills about 23,000 Americans every year. Getting the overuse of antibiotics off of our farms is a crucial step in preventing thousands of illnesses caused by superbugs.

The power of consumer activism continues to amaze me.

I thank Subway on behalf of many for addressing this very critical public health issue. Can’t wait to see the other dominos start to fall. Who do you want to see next? Tell me in the comments!

Sending you all a virtual HIGH FIVE and lots of love!!!

Thank you for making history with me, once again!

Xo, 

Vani

For reference, see recent news reports:

 
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201 responses to “The Events That Led To Subway’s Breaking Antibiotics Announcement (Get all the juicy details!)

      1. I don’t even call it a boycott, I just don’t eat at chain/franchised restaurants. The food is usually lousy and the portions are terrible and in most cases you are just supporting mega companies…… “Big Food” if you will. I try to support small independent entrepreneurs when ever I can. I really respect the small Mom & Pops. It is really tough business.

        Do the same with car repairs/oil changes/tires. Always try to deal with the little guy, forget the big franchise chains. Don’t care if I have to spend a few extra bucks but surprisingly many times the little guys actually beat the prices of the chains.

  1. Congratulations on this! indeed a great news.

    I am a bit dismayed though that Subway has made this commitment only for US. What about other countries including India where I live?

    1. When someone with absolutely no expertise in science, biology or dietetics in India organises a large number of scientifically illiterate an credulous people to petition them for no sound reason then Subway in India will make the sensible business decision and cave in to the ignorant demands of those potential customers

  2. Applauding you!!!
    Can you go after school cafe? I could send you pics of the terrible food that the kids in northwestern Pa eat.

  3. Good job on all that has been done through the food babe army!!

    I would like to leave a blog from a young lady who is a farmer.
    She does make a good point!
    We do have very good farmers in the States that don’t get the recognition the deserve

      1. I agree that we need to treat sick animals. This is why we asked Subway to stop the “routine” use of antibiotics which is for growth promotion and disease prevention. We wanted to meet with Subway to discuss these issues, but they haven’t open the doors yet – Hoping that they do so we can stop the spread of superbugs while also treating animals as humanely as possible.

  4. I got food poisoning from eating at this fast food chain and spent 4 days in the hospital. My doctor told me that he had other patients that had got sick in the same timeline from the same fast food chain, different locations. I believe in an effort to keep costs low, their suppliers are cutting corners. I will never eat from this chain again, antibiotics or not.

    1. I’m not surprised you got food poisoning, but that’s a matter I think you can blame directly on the Subway franchise, not their suppliers, and here’s why: I always look over the Health Department inspections that are reported in the local newspaper, and almost every time any Subway franchise is listed, they have at least one violation for “cold” items not being kept cold enough on the preparation table. Usually it’s the little trays of meats, and not the cold cuts, but not always. I still eat there periodically, and I’ve never gotten sick from it, but I’m certain that some people do.

  5. People should really do their homework and research to know how farming and antibiotics work before they jump on the “antibiotic free meat” bandwagon. Antibiotics aid an animals immune system just as they do humans if they have an illness. Once the antibiotics have completed their task of ridding the immune system of illness/infection, they flush through the animals system just like any other thing consumed would. I guarantee if you (being a supporter of this movement) were to be affected by an illness, you would immediately go to the doctor and get it managed. Understanding, you would be getting medicine, which would generally be an ANTIBIOTIC to fight the sickness. You dislike the pain and fatigue that occur while being ill and we as farmers loath the thought of our animals being unwell for many reasons. Not only do we love animals and consider them as family anyways; they generate our profit and endow a feeling of pride because of all the hard work put in to keeping the animal healthy. This ensures people can have fresh, healthy meat. Since there is a required period of time the animal must be held after they receive any antibiotics, their immune system is completely free of any trace of the medication before being able to send off to the consumers. Therefore, meat is technically antibiotic free by the time you eat it anyhow. Plus, Subway could just be scheming everyone and say they are going antibiotic free meat, but still purchase whatever meat they can get their hands on. Go out and play in the dirt, do a little hard work, and be a farmer, that is ultimately the best way to build your own immune system! ‪#‎nomoresubway‬ ‪#‎wakeuppeople‬ ‪#‎agricultureisouronlyhope‬

  6. CARRAGEENAN – it is bad for the gut . i find it in most coffee creamers Land of lakes is one brand, lot of yogurts, ice creams, puddings, etc. i wish they could use something else. keep up the hard work! thanks.

    1. I agree Rachael. It is getting really difficult to find carrageenan free ice cream now. As far as I know the only mainstream brand without it is Breyers. I avoid Carrageenan and MSG in everything I buy. If you’re making good, quality food you just don’t need these additives in it. Period…….

      Note – I spent 25 years distributing food for a good sized food manufacturer and was inside the plant on a weekly basis. I didn’t work for Breyers or any ice cream company.

  7. Subway also serves huge amount of rolls – wheat. GMO. Organic flour or flourless rolls should also be addressed with this company, along with most restaurants. We need to make the entire meal GMO free and healthy.

  8. Great work Vani!

    Maybay after march next year, my cat might even start eating subway chicken. lol

    Quirious about El Pollo Loco. Do you know anything about the quillity of their chicken and other menu items?

    K.

  9. Can you find out if Trader Joe’s really is GMO free? Cuz it seems to me that by now they could have changed the labeling on their name brand to say so if they really were. It’s only in their website as a statement & out of the mouths of their staff. I love TJs but tgeir behaviour seems unreliable.

  10. I appreciate all the hard work you do on behalf of America. We all have to eat right? I trust you food babe, and you have helped me clean up what I feed myself and my family! You’re our voice! Ignore the haters they are just envious they can’t move the mountains that The Food Babe Army has! I applaud your courage, God Bless you!

  11. Way to go!! Hopefully, something can be done at one of the most popular coffee chains in American, Starbucks. I love their 1/2 decaf nonfat latte, but I also know their milk is not organic and their decaf is not water pressed but uses chemical to do this process.
    Maybe Subway can also go with organic vegetables!!
    Thanks Vani for all you do.

    Kim

  12. Hi Vani
!
    I’m a huge fan of Food Babe. I currently work in marketing at Chick-fil-A and have a small blog about women’s issues and healthy living from a Christian perspective. I’m interested in growing my following and revamping the blog. You’re a blogger I admire, so I wanted to ask you a few questions.

    First, what tip would you give a novice blogger trying to grow her following?
Second, what do you think is the secret to your success?
    Third, what would you suggest to make a blog profitable?

    Many thanks for your time, and for all your great work. It’s been a huge source of inspiration since having my first child and transforming my eating habits!

    Sylvia
    sylvialaurenceblog.wordpress.com

    1. Would love to see chick-fil-A clean up it’s act. As a Christian organization their food speaks different.

  13. Corn syrups, there in everything from meat marinade at Chili’s to Haagen Dazs ice cream to alfredo sauce at Olive Garden. I have an allergy to all corn products which basically means I cannot eat anywhere that is pre made. I was surprised that Olive Garden has corn syrup in about 99.9% of their food. They claim that they are a taste of fresh Italy but I have been to Italy and have never seen food made like that before. My request food babe is that the use of corn syrup or all of this quote unquote corn that is put in our food everywhere is limited but that is a major fight. I have even heard now that they are trying to lobby so they do not have to put corn in ingredients it will say sugar instead of corn syrup or just malodextrin. Don’t know if anything can be done but that’s my two cents. Thank you for continuing to fight a good fight and I will support you in your many campaigns and continue to read your many investigations. God bless!

    1. Don’t try this because I really don’t know, but I’m betting you’re not allergic to corn, rather it’s the pesticides that they use. Are you allergic to soy as well? Remember, 95% of corn and soy are genetically modified, which means they have Monsanto’s round up pesticide which is very dangerous. In conclusion, you’re probably not going to get allergic reactions to non GMO organic corn. If you’re allergic to soy, I can almost guarantee it. Again though I’m not a doctor or scientist so I can’t say for sure. I’m just a college student and assistant café manager trying to fix this food system through the free market and competition. Best of lukc to you though, I can imagine it’s very hard living with such allergies.

  14. Hi, Vani – Thanks for all the hard work! I signed this Subway petition because my mother passed away from an infection caused by antibiotics-resistant bacteria, so this is deeply personal to me. So grateful for your tireless efforts to make our foods less harmful, so we have a fighting chance to stay healthy. Congrats to you and to all of us!

  15. Thank you Food Babe!!!! Our daughter had severe Ulcerative Colitis and had to have her large intestine removed. From the research I’ve done, antibiotics are the probable reason for the operation. Antibiotics kill the “good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria”. Also, I read that Japan’s population didn’t have a problem with IBS, Chrouns (sorry can’t remember how it’s spelt) or UC until “McDonalds” hit land-shore.
    From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Food Babe! We, the consumers, support you 100%. And thank you, Subway, for making positive changes to your food! I’ve always enjoyed eating Subway, and will make it my main fast-food stop. Everyone, keep up the great work. Together we’re making life saving changes for the better. Awesome. Heather

  16. Whether Subway wanted it to happen or not, it is great that it did. Great work to everyone who contributed over the last year to this.

  17. WHO recognizes antibiotics have contributed, an average, 20 years to live expectancy. If you are interested in the state of antibiotic stewardship for continued good healthjpthen see

    1. (Continued) then see … the global plans for stewardship on antibiotic use. These are evidence based and have sound multi disciplinary science behind it. It’s a much bigger issue than your narcissism on fast food choices in your neighborhood and blogger feel-good pseudo-science advice.

      (First time on this site and the criticism rings true. Dodgy advise and woeful continuation of memes, still I am happy on Subways future possible change of policy but I’m not sure I will give attribution to this site)

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