Subway Gluten Free

Back at the beginning of the year I heard that Subway were starting to test gluten free rolls and brownies for gluten free customers and now it sounds like they are expanding  as these items make their way onto menus. Subway sandwiches are the one fast food that I ate in my pre-celiac days so the thought of being able to eat here again is exciting. On the other hand, taking into consideration that Subway is a sandwich bar..gluten..gluten…gluten, it’s probably one of the last places any celiac would consider going for a safe meal, right? My first thought was perhaps they are catering for gluten sensitive folks rather than celiacs. I’m very happy and appreciative that Subway want to provide options for gluten free customers and I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage them from doing so but at the same time we need to ensure that that what they’re taking enough (and the correct) precautions to keep us safe..or what’s the point? One thing is for sure, they certainly have a difficult job ahead of them assuring customers that their gluten free products are safe when prepared in an environment filled with wheat, barley, oats and rye. What precautions could Subway sandwich artists take to convince us?

How it works:  At Subway, once a gluten-free roll or brownie is ordered, the line staff is required to wipe down the entire counter and get rid of any crumbs in the vicinity. They’re then to wash their hands and change their gloves. The gluten-free rolls and brownies are pre-packaged on fresh deli paper, and a single-use, pre-packaged knife is used for cutting.

The gluten-free sandwich is taken from order to point-of-sale by the same person, as opposed to being passed down the line in the traditional Subway format. Customers are able to watch the creation from start to finish.

Mark Christiano,  Subway’s baking specialist in the R&D department says “If they don’t like what they see, they can start it over. It’s important that our customers feel comfortable and safe,”  “Nobody is going to die from this, but people get very sick if it’s not done right. We want to provide them with a place to eat where they don’t have to worry about that.”

Sounds like they have a plan. This is exciting. I hope all of these precautions are taken by every sandwich artist when preparing food for gluten free customers.

But will celiacs feel safe eating here? Pizza restaurants which offer gluten free options have similar difficulties where cross contamination is concerned and recently I’ve become more aware of possibly unsafe practices concerning shared ladles/ovens etc making me less likely to chose to eat at these places.I’m always very careful when it comes to eating anywhere that handles a lot of glutenous products but for some reason the thought of eating a gluten free sandwich from a fast food chain really doesn’t fill me with confidence.

My top concerns

  • Is wiping down the counter enough to really ensure it’s completely crumb free considering the quantity and frequency of glutenous products prepared there?
  • Will separate ladles/bottles of dressing be used for gf and non gf orders? (ladles or bottle tips could have been contaminated from touching glutenous bread) This may not be an issue if no ladles are used.
  • Are Subway certain that all of their toppings are gluten free? Do their meats, cheeses, etc come from a gluten free certified source?

I will be very interested to see how this all turns out. I would love to live in a world where I can walk into Subway and order a safe sandwich just like I did before I was diagnosed as celiac…dreaming of a day when picking up a quick bite to eat for lunch could be simple again…and perhaps Subway are only the beginning. Perhaps they will lead the way for other fast food restaurants to join the gluten free market. Would you eat a double cheeseburger at McDonalds, Burger King or Arby’s if it was on a gluten free bun? Personally I would not but it would be nice if it was an option for those gluten free-ers who would.

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  • Excellent post Laura, I have to say that Subway is probably my most missed Gluten Fast Food joint since going GF. As an experienced traveler I used Subway as my safety net for food as its the same everywhere (hence the franchise!?). I welcome this news and would really like to see it in action. I live very close to a Subway restaurant and ever since I found out they were experimenting with GF bread I have kept an eye on the shop to see if anything had materialized. As you say there are times when you need a quick lunch and Subway hits all the spots for me.

    Your concerns are very valid and I look forward to seeing what Subway can do? Here’s hoping! =)


  • Michelle

    Aug 27th, 2011

    I live in Dallas and have been enjoying gluten free Subway for a few months now. I am gluten intolerant, not celiac, so I don’t get sick immediately. I do however have pain from my rheumatoid arthritis flaring up the next morning after I’ve eaten gluten. I’ve never had that with subway. They wipe down, use gloves, use a disposable knife, etc. They even have a list of gluten free and non gluten free toppings on the counter. I’ve ordered ham and turkey. Most of the time they’ve opened a new package with their gloves so that no gluten can have touched my food. Once the employee just picked up the stack of meat and pulled from the bottom. I’m sure that they would have opened a new pack if I’d asked. They are very willing to make sure that you’re comfortable with the preparation. I have two words to deceive the brownies. Delectable and pre-wrapped…

  • Thanks Conor!

    Michelle, that’s so great to hear about your experience of eating at Subway. Thanks for makes me more confident to eat there when you say that so much care was taken with the preparation. 🙂

  • I have ordered the GF bun at Safeway. I found it to be pretty dry. I did think they did a good job of protocol for GF.
    I decided to order the chopped salad instead using the black forest ham and turkey. Very satisfying and no bread.

    The brownie is so good! But our local Subway discontinued
    carrying it because so few ordered it. I asked for it to return and it had not the last time I went in there.

    The same brownie can be found in my local grocery store freezer GF section, so I get them there when I need a good brownie.

    I am gluten intolerant, not celiac.

  • I meant “Subway”