This morning, the internet is buzzing with the news that Subway now has more restaurants globally than McDonald’s, which has long been the largest restaurant chain in the world. The Wall Street Journal reports that Subway now has 33,749 restaurants worldwide, compared to McDonald’s 32,737. As many discuss the two companies strategies for expansion overseas, I found myself wondering what this means for global food culture.
Subway has worked hard to promote the idea that its sandwiches are a healthier option, from their slogan of “Eat Fresh” to their promotional campaign featuring Jared Fogle. Yet there is much to consider before you bite into a footlong sandwich.
Although one can construct a sandwich which seems healthy enough, say of chicken breast, tomatoes and lettuce on whole wheat bread, a closer look at the ingredients list reveals that this sandwich would actually contains a considerable number of additives according to their published nutritional information. Despite some public outcry, high fructose corn syrup remains the third ingredient in Subway’s 9-grain wheat bread, and the chicken breast strips are pumped up with soy protein, modified food starch and chicken flavor. I’m happy to report that the lettuce, onion and tomatoes have not been modified, but watch out for the artificial coloring in the banana peppers. How fresh is this food if it requires so much plumping and preserving?
Subway does offer several sandwiches with 300 calories or less, but many more have over 500 calories, including almost all of the “low fat” subs.
Like McDonald’s, Subway uses both a “store optional program” and a “country optional” program, which means that the offerings vary from store to store and country. While the continuing expansion of American fast food chain is just another indicator of globalization, it also does not bode well for global nutrition. Catering to the tastes of local markets may preserve some semblance of regional diversity, but McDonald’s and Subway nonetheless offer lower quality nutrition than genuinely fresh foods sourced from local markets.