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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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    I was "glutened" by the toppings when I asked for a salad. I didn't notice at the time but even though they put on clean gloves each time they made a sandwich. The process of making regular sandwiches makes getting glutened likely i.e., put the pickles on the bread (touching bread) then dipping into pickles etc and again touching bread.

    Did you know that you can always ask for fresh ingredients from their refrigerator?

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    BUT the rolls cost a dollar more for being gluten-free. No one has stated that.

    Gluten-free ingredients cost more than heavily government subsidized wheat, and most celiacs are happy to pay it and have the choice. The cost of a six inch sub was $5, which was the cost of a foot long. I'll take a $5 six inch any day!

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    Hey, y'all

    Let's put some pressure on STARBUCKS! Mine in Oregon has zero gluten-free options. Mean while, gees, it's a no brainer, subway needs to offer gluten-free elsewhere.

    Thanks, Scott

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    BUT the rolls cost a dollar more for being gluten-free. No one has stated that.

    That's how it is at most places and I don't care! I just want to be able to eat something I've missed for years. If you don't feel the same way, don't eat it, but please don't complain. I'm really irritated with those people suing P.F. Chang's. I used to live in China and now I can't even eat Chinese food -- you don't think that's worth a little extra to me?!

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    I work 1/2 block from a Subway in Sacramento, CA, but it opened after I was diagnosed. I would eat there regularly if gluten-free rolls were available, but they're not in California yet as far as I have heard.

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    I miss subway tuna sandwiches so much, this would be heaven if they brought this to California...to bad I wouldn't even dare trying it if they did.

     

    I would be scared of cross contamination too much. Seems like a place were it would happen fairly easy. A guy can dream though.

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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.

    Being aware of cross-contamination is not being a naysayer. I'm shocked that a fellow gluten-free person would not even supportive of an actual celiac's gluten-free needs. From where I'm sitting, I'm supportive of the trendy gluten-free eaters out there because their eating food far has brought more options to the celiac table. In turn it would be nice if the fad gluten-free eaters could likewise give support to the celiacs that actually HAVE to be aware of and restrictive of cross-contaminated "options". Geesh!!!

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    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.

    That's just the point- no one "sees" the bread crumbs flying...just like no one sees the flour dust at the pizzeria settle into the salads. Or maybe it's not the flour, maybe the cross contamination comes from ( _fill_in_the_blank___). But the point is, that any restaurant that is making a bread product in house will inevitably have cross contamination. I get your pretty darn excited about these subway rolls. And for most, it's a win. But, I still can't and won't be able to eat at subway because of the cross contamination factor. Weather or not you want to believe it, it happens. And there are a significant number of celiacs that have to take caution and restrict themselves from cross contamination. We need support not the contrary of being told we are being to picky. My GI doctor just told me that I have to give up Chick-Fil-A fries for heavens sake and they are always (at the location that I go to) fried in their own dedicated fryer. But somewhere somehow, I'm getting glutened at CFA. So you see, it's not that we are being picky- a true celiac MUST not eat where there is a chance of cross-contamination... Like it or not- the crumbs are flying around Subway. You really think every minimum wage kid that can't even define gluten is going to be absolutely sure to clean his cutting board and knives before prepping toppings in the back? Half the time they think I'm asking for "free" food. Gluten?

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    That's just the point- no one "sees" the bread crumbs flying...just like no one sees the flour dust at the pizzeria settle into the salads. Or maybe it's not the flour, maybe the cross contamination comes from ( _fill_in_the_blank___). But the point is, that any restaurant that is making a bread product in house will inevitably have cross contamination. I get your pretty darn excited about these subway rolls. And for most, it's a win. But, I still can't and won't be able to eat at subway because of the cross contamination factor. Weather or not you want to believe it, it happens. And there are a significant number of celiacs that have to take caution and restrict themselves from cross contamination. We need support not the contrary of being told we are being to picky. My GI doctor just told me that I have to give up Chick-Fil-A fries for heavens sake and they are always (at the location that I go to) fried in their own dedicated fryer. But somewhere somehow, I'm getting glutened at CFA. So you see, it's not that we are being picky- a true celiac MUST not eat where there is a chance of cross-contamination... Like it or not- the crumbs are flying around Subway. You really think every minimum wage kid that can't even define gluten is going to be absolutely sure to clean his cutting board and knives before prepping toppings in the back? Half the time they think I'm asking for "free" food. Gluten?

    If you are this sensitive you likely can't eat out in dedicated gluten-free restaurants either...after all, they bring in foods from all over and there is no guarantee that cross contamination hasn't happened to one or more of their ingredients. This article is for those who do eat out, not for those who have already decided not to eat out (and apparently spend their time and effort scaring others from doing so).

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    Being aware of cross-contamination is not being a naysayer. I'm shocked that a fellow gluten-free person would not even supportive of an actual celiac's gluten-free needs. From where I'm sitting, I'm supportive of the trendy gluten-free eaters out there because their eating food far has brought more options to the celiac table. In turn it would be nice if the fad gluten-free eaters could likewise give support to the celiacs that actually HAVE to be aware of and restrictive of cross-contaminated "options". Geesh!!!

    In your other comment (below) you made it clear that you have already reached the conclusion that no matter what Subway does, their subs will always be cross-contaminated. Apparently training, packaging, and even taking out fresh gluten-free ingredients stored in their refrigerator won't prevent this. I believe that this is not the case, however, it is your preconceived notion. Don't eat there--this is the best solution for your situation. You have that choice. I believe, however, that the majority or celiacs would like the option of eating there, regardless of a very small risk that can be mitigated by Subway's well-trained staff. This is really about choice--you've made yours, but it seems like you don't believe that others should be able to make theirs.

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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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