Advertising Standards Board upholds accusation against Subway “fillet”

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 27th June 2012

After a decade of selling a “Chicken Fillet Sub”, Subway has been accused of false-advertising in a customer complaint that has been upheld by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB).

The Case Report states that, earlier this month, a Subway consumer wrote to the ASB saying, “I purchased a chicken fillet subway roll and when I got it home I was disgusted to find after biting it that it is in fact a processed chicken piece. My understanding of a chicken fillet is a fillet of chicken not processed chicken meat.”

Subway responded to the complaint with a definition of “fillet” from the Webster online dictionary, which defined “fillet” as “A piece of lean meat without bone; sometimes, a long strip rolled together and tied.”

The ingredients for the $7 “Subway Footlong Chicken Fillet Sub”, as listed on Subway’s website are: Chicken (82%), Flour (wheat), Water, Mineral Salt (450, 451, 452), Salt, Vegetable Oil, Wheat Starch, Sugar, Herbs and Spices, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Egg Albumen, Dehydrated Vegetable (Garlic), Yeast Extract, Soy Sauce (Wheat), Flavours (Wheat, Milk), Maltodextrin, Acidity Regulators (331, 336), Whey Protein (Milk).

After review, the ASB found that the Food Standards Australia New Zealand does not appear to have a standard of identity or definition for “chicken fillet‟ and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation does not include it in its terms of “Cuts of Chicken Meat”.

The so-called “chicken fillet”, the ASB decided, is a “formed product” and the brand has been using the descriptor “fillet” on the basis of the shape of the product and that the meat is boneless.

The Board noted that the prevailing community standard on what a fillet of chicken is does not include chicken presented in pieces or formed or processed chicken meat.

The Case Report states that “In the Board’s view, most members of the community would associate chicken fillets with the breast or thigh portion of the chicken in one whole piece or as a cut of chicken rather than reconstituted into a particular shape.”

The ASB considered that Subway’s advertisement was “misleading or deceptive” and breached Section 2.1 of the AANA Food and Beverages Advertising and Marketing Communications Code, and upheld the complaint.

As a result, Subway has agreed to change its “Chicken Fillet” sub to “Chicken Classic”. The name has already been altered on the Subway website, and, as of Monday 30th July 2012, the instore menus will be updated.

It is an interesting observation that if the complaint had been directed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) instead of to the ASB, Subway may possibly have received a hefty fine, because the making of any ‘misleading or deceptive’ advertisement can be a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act, and can attract a massive fine, even if a breach is unintentional.