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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Dear Subway: Please Share the Gluten-Free Oregon Love

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: Scott Adams

    Celiac.com 08/14/2015 – Recently I took a last minute, end of Summer road trip with my family and on one of our pit stops I was delighted to discover the often rumored, highly elusive and possibly "Holy Grail" of gluten-free food: Subway's gluten-free sub rolls! Yes, I am here to tell you that they do indeed exist, even though I almost couldn't believe it even when I saw them—but there they were...a whole stack of six inch long gluten-free Subway rolls—sitting right in front of me in tidy, individually wrapped cellophane packages.

    Photo: Scott AdamsI had to rub my eyes and look twice to make sure that I wasn't dreaming because I, like many people, believed that Subway had discontinued them after a temporary Oregon-only trial run, and had decided against a permanent gluten-free roll out. Apparently though, in Oregon at least (and perhaps in other states?), they are still going strong many months after their rumored demise. To top this off, they even offered a gluten-free brownie for dessert!

    Rather than getting stuck with a chopped Subway salad again I was finally able to order a real submarine sandwich—just like everyone else. So, I immediately honed in on an old favorite and decided to try their Spicy Italian sub on a gluten-free roll. What...no bewildered look on their faces when I asked for gluten-free? They seemed to know exactly what I wanted, and the employee who prepared my sandwich seemed to follow a carefully prepared script—she first cleaned off the prep counter, then changed into a new pair of clean gloves, and finally pulled out a new, clean sheet of paper onto which she set the packaged roll. The roll was pre-cut, thus she didn't have to use the bread knife to cut it, which was likely contaminated. While making the sandwich I was offered the option of having it toasted (some sensitive celiacs may want to skip the toaster oven part), and I noticed that when she toasted mine she made sure that it went into the oven solo, so that it would not touch other sandwiches (it was also on its original sheet of clean paper when it went in).

    At this point you are probably wondering how it tasted, right? It was simply fantastic! Why can't other companies make gluten-free bread taste like this? It was soft, strong and slightly chewy. It wasn't at all dry, and seemed very fresh. My wife wanted me to ask them if they were sold separately so that I could take some home with me, which I didn't do, but you get the idea—they were really good and tasted very fresh.

    I was so excited about the prospect of being able to once again eat Subway sandwiches that I ended up stopping at Subway several times during our road trip.

    Each time I visited a Subway in Oregon I noticed that other people were also ordering or eating gluten-free subs, and in each case the staff seemed to follow their gluten-free script perfectly. It is difficult to estimate the exact ratio of gluten-free customers from such a small sampling, but it seemed to me that around 10-20% of total visitors ordered the gluten-free roll. Most companies would do almost anything to grow their business by 10-20%, but in this case the opposite could be the case—businesses should be willing to offer gluten-free options so they don't lose 10-20% of their business! I certainly hope that Subway's Oregon test bed is going well, and that Subway has learned that offering gluten-free sub rolls is great for business.

    And now for the $64,000 question: Will Subway roll out their gluten-free rolls to other states, and if so, when? It's time for Subway to share the gluten-free love beyond just Oregon! Of course with the P.F. Chang's litigation still ongoing, they are likely now in a holding pattern to see how that case turns out.

    Have you seen gluten-free Subway rolls outside of Oregon? Please let us know below.


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    Please bring to Montana!

    I was in Seattle in June with a group of friends who wanted Subway, so I thought I would have a salad. Lo and behold they had gluten-free rolls!!! All the people who worked on my sandwich put on new plastic gloves to make my sandwich...it was delightful. I haven't found any Subways here in Arizona who have gluten-free rolls.

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    Does the script include avoiding cross contamination from dipping into the "fixings" and putting them on gluten filled bread? Aren't the fixings then contaminated? Is there a separate area for fixings that have not been used to make non-gluten free subs? I'm not posing these questions hoping for an answer. I'm just saying I wouldn't eat a gluten-free Subway sandwich unless I'm sure these issues are included in their script.

    I won't eat salads at Subway because of cross contamination I have seen and so I doubt there is a difference with the gluten free sub rolls. Why can't they use tongs or something? It would be WONDERFUL to have a sub.

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    I saw the gluten-free sandwich sign at the Subway in Newport, WA over Memorial Day weekend. When we got into Spokane, the Subway shop in Qualchan didn't know what I was talking about.

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    I was recently in Washington and they had the gluten free bread there too and it was amazing and the lady working at subway was very well trained and very cautiously changed her gloves, laid the bread on clean paper and got all of the fixings out of the back so they were not contaminated. I was very impressed. I wish they were in California!

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    Bread crumbs are flying all over that place!! Gloves have laid lettuce on bread, then reached for the peppers, onions, etc. No way I would eat a salad or anything else at ANY sandwich restaurant! If you are just cutting gluten out for personal reasons and not because you are sensitive, it would be different. It's all or none, though, really. I make my own amazing bread and biscuits!

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    Bread crumbs are flying all over that place!! Gloves have laid lettuce on bread, then reached for the peppers, onions, etc. No way I would eat a salad or anything else at ANY sandwich restaurant! If you are just cutting gluten out for personal reasons and not because you are sensitive, it would be different. It's all or none, though, really. I make my own amazing bread and biscuits!

    As mentioned by at least one person who commented, they are happy to bring out fresh, uncontaminated fixings for those who ask--and no, I did not see bread crumbs "flying all over that place" at any of the Subways I visited.

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    I won't eat salads at Subway because of cross contamination I have seen and so I doubt there is a difference with the gluten free sub rolls. Why can't they use tongs or something? It would be WONDERFUL to have a sub.

    You can ask for fresh fixings.

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    It would be great if Subway A) rolled this out nationwide in their restaurants and B) came out with a line of gluten-free rolls and buns similar to the way Dunkin' Donuts sells its coffee or Panera and Olive Garden sell their salad dressings in supermarkets.

     

    To the naysayers: Remember the perfect is often the enemy of the good. Not everyone who avoids gluten is hyper-sensitive to the point of being overly concerned with potential trace amounts of gluten from cross-contamination. It's this kind of all-or-nothing attitude that likely prevents more companies from jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon and giving us all more gluten-free choices.

    Not sure what you mean here...their rolls are packaged and gluten-free...

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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