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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 would like to say to all the hypocrites...Scott mentions many times that it may not be the best option for you if you're highly sensitive and if you are...I doubt you eat out very often at all. I for one would love to have a gluten free sub option at Subway. As a person living with celiac I know that there's always a risk when eating out. I live my life with more of a no risk, no reward attitude. Thank you for the great news Scott! I'll keep my eyes open in my area.

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

    I meant they should sell the rolls/buns in supermarkets as well as offering them in their restaurants.

     

    (if you were referring to the later part of my post, I wasn't at all disagreeing that the buns and rolls were gluten-free or appropriate to be consumed by those following a gluten-free diet--quite the opposite. I am very supportive of the option and would welcome it).

     

     

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    Companies that offer gluten free options should be encouraged not picked apart. It is my understanding there is a continuum of gluten intolerance/sensitivity. For those on the extreme end, it is likely no option other than a fully dedicated facility is acceptable. That is not the case for everyone and therefore, this type of option should not only be welcomed but applauded and those who believe this option is important should not be labelled "gluten-free faddists."

     

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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.

    Huntress, you are annoyingly dismissive. Really, "overly concerned"? There is no such thing when it is a matter of your life and your health. CLEARLY you are not one of us who are super-sensitive to trace gluten and celiac, otherwise you would not be so callous.

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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.

    From a naysayer: It's your attitude that allows companies to lower their standards/precautions when preparing gluten-free foods and make those like myself (extremely sensitive) have an even harder time keeping healthy and an even harder time being criticized as "paranoid" by others. Food for thought: how do you know that just because you're not having a reaction that damage isn't being done?

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    Guest Patti in New York

    Posted

    We need gluten free Subway's all across America!!!!

    I haven't had a good sub since being diagnosed 4 years ago. In fact, no sandwiches at all. I don't like the Udi's frozen bread but I do like the Udi's frozen pepperoni pizza. I'm in New York and am always on the look-out for fresh gluten free foods but not finding too many. We also don't have places to eat that serve gluten free. I think if someone could take the reins and open up a franchise nationwide for gluten free that they would make a mint!!!

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    From a naysayer: It's your attitude that allows companies to lower their standards/precautions when preparing gluten-free foods and make those like myself (extremely sensitive) have an even harder time keeping healthy and an even harder time being criticized as "paranoid" by others. Food for thought: how do you know that just because you're not having a reaction that damage isn't being done?

    Again, you need not take this risk. Others may want to. It is a personal choice, and the company has taken reasonable measures to cater to those on a gluten-free diet. No matter what they did, I doubt that you would eat there.

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    Huntress, you are annoyingly dismissive. Really, "overly concerned"? There is no such thing when it is a matter of your life and your health. CLEARLY you are not one of us who are super-sensitive to trace gluten and celiac, otherwise you would not be so callous.

    But if you are super sensitive you likely would not eat there no matter what Subway did...right?

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

    That should be against Subway Policy, especially if they don't sell that many gluten-free buns. They probably throw away more than they sell. I live in Colorado and I'm still waiting for gluten-free buns. When I was first diagnosed with celiac and asked about gluten-free buns at Subway the dumbfounded looks I got was amazing. Subway and all restaurants should educate their staff on celiac disease and the definition of cross-contamination. Also the effects it can have on someone that is gluten-intolerant.

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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.

    Subway needs to train their staff on cross-contamination, as well as maybe putting up a sign or two saying that their staff is trained in knowing the difference in knowing what to do about someone with a special need with celiac disease ! That way there is a definite guarantee that they know what can happen if cross-contamination happens. I get really sick !!

    Even if I just get my regular sweet onion chicken teryiaki chicken salad with spinach dry !!

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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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