Subway | Eat Death™


I’ve recently renewed my dialog with Subway, sparked by the news of them rolling out a gluten-free menu.  Here’s how it’s going down:

From:

ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Subject: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: Paula Gomez <gomez_p@subway.com>, Rob Searfus <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>, Mack Bridenbaker <m.bridenbaker@sfaft.org>, Christine Sumecki <c.sumecki@sfaft.org>, Subway Customer Care Team <asksubway@subway.com>, “B. Pingarron” <b.pingarron@sfaft.org>, “M. Luby” <m.luby@sfaft.org>, “Anna Marie Seeley (Customer Care Representative)” <seeley_a@subway.com>, Kevin Kane <kane_k@subway.com>

Hello Friends at Subway,

I write to you today because we have had a dialogue going in the past about food allergies and cross-contamination that I would like to continue.  I have recently read a few articles online informing the masses that Subway plans to roll-out some gluten-free menu options in the Dallas & Tyler Texas markets soon.  If you would like to read the articles in question, here are some links:

While I would like to be able to applaud this effort, I also find it quite frustrating.

I am quite proud of Subway as an organization when I read such responsible things like “The baked goods will arrive pre-packaged and individually wrapped. Employees will be educated on how to cut the bread using a pre-wrapped knife to avoid cross contamination.”  I mean, really… this is a novel idea and a stellar effort as well as great news for Celiac afflicted potential Subway customers.  Certainly lines like “Also, to further avoid cross-contamination, that same Sandwich Artist will prepare the order from beginning to end, ensuring a 100-percent gluten-free meal” offer a level of comfort to those who must dine gluten-free.  While other restaurants have offered gluten-free menus, you seem to understand that a knife that cuts a regular bun cannot also cut the bun of a gluten-free selection.  This would, I imagine, be quite a worry for a wheat-allergic or Celiac person.  I can imagine this scenario quite well, actually.  You may remember my past missives expressing my allergy to shellfish (and more specifically to your “seafood” sub offering).

This is where my frustration sets in.  I have written to you on multiple occasions expressing the frustration for not only my shellfish allergy, but all of the “top 8”; Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  Why have you picked this opportunity to only concentrate on the wheat?  There are others too… I know of people with tomato and pepper allergies that would be thrown into the same anaphylactic shock that I would given I were to take a bite of unknowingly deathfish-laiden lunchmeat.  While you seem to understand the importance of a gluten-free knife… what about a cheese-free, tomato-free, and shellfish-free knife?  Perhaps you have forgotten my previous letter with a few colorful illustrations of the contaminated knife issue.  I will repost here for your convenience:

Then we have the community knife.  If one were to cut someone’s seafood sub with that knife, wipe it off, then cut my sub, there are STILL allergens on that knife, enough allergens to kill me.  Do you want me to be thrown in to an Anaphylactic fit?  I doubt it.  Well, at least, I hope not.

Think about this – do you share your toothbrush with everyone in your household?  Would you with everyone in your office?  Would you share it with everyone that you pass on the way to work in the morning or with everyone who’s eating lunch with you at the same place where you’re choosing to dine?

Yes, it sounds gross, but those potential germs that you’re no doubt currently horrified of are the same as the very real allergens that will most certainly throw me into instant death.

If that didn’t do it for you, imagine I put a giant dried dog turd on the sandwich board, cut it in half, wrapped it, wiped off the knife [with a re-used dishrag type cloth], and then cut your sandwich.  By Subway’s current logic, that knife is clean and contamination free.  This is most certainly not a pretty picture to you, my friend.  Is it?

Does any of this ring a bell?

Also, I have received conflicting reports on how such issues are currently handled or have been handled in the past.  One reply states…

The Company policy directs our independent restaurant owners / operators to take all necessary precautions to prevent the possibility of cross contamination. This includes the policy of washing all utensils and containers after each use. Each restaurant is independently owned and operated and is the responsibility of the franchise owner to implement and enforce the policy.

Which seems to conflict with yet another reply…

I have gone ahead and copied our Training Department so that further lessons can be addressed with owners and their employees on proper handling.

And, the latest information according to the QSRWeb.com article is that “Sandwich Artists in those two markets will be trained on how to cut the roll with a pre-wrapped knife for one use only.”  So, have they been trained in allergies in cross-contamination already, or not?  Color me confused, my friends.

I’d feel safer if the seafood concoction wasn’t anywhere near the meat & cheese where it currently sits.  I’d also feel safer if the same knife wasn’t used to cut all of the sandwiches, and the same dishrag-type towel wasn’t used to wipe off the knife in random intervals between sandwich slicing.  I’d feel safer if all the sandwich artists, managers, and owners were trained on allergens, cross-contamination, and the seriousness of anaphylactic shock.  I’d feel safer if all stores contained a first aid kit complete with an epi pen and clear instructions for its use.

Why should the Celiac-afflicted feel safer, but the rest of us with deadly food allergies should not?  I look forward to your response, your insights, and how you plan to move forward regarding all potentially deadly allergens and how they are to be handled in your stores.  Thank you once again for your time, I hope to hear from you soon.

Inquisitively,
-ERiC AiXeLsyD

P.S. – I was wondering, when you work in an office for Subway, do you have an in-office Subway in which the employees receive (or make) their own lunch?  Or, is there a Subway nearby where you get free or discounted food?  Or, are you all too sick of Subway to eat there?

And I got this back…

From: Searfus, Rob <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>
Date: Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 4:31 PM
Subject: RE: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>

Hello Eric,

My apologies for not replying earlier, I was traveling and in meetings most of the week, (as well as attending to some family business).  But enough of the excuses.

Forgive me for not having more product answers, but I’m simply a field marketing representative out here on the west coast.  I have inquired with our R&D department to try and get the answers to your questions.  No replies yet, but this week has been tough for me to get a hold of anyone on the east coast due to the severe winter storms that they have been having (offices closed for at least a couple of days.)

I’ll follow up by e-mail when I get any answers for you.

Thanks, and BTW, what part of the US to you hail from?

Rob Searfus
Field Marketing Manager
Subway® Franchise World Headquarters
16337 SW Leeding Ln
Tigard, OR 97223
Cell: 503-954-5479
Toll Free: 1-800-888-4848 x 4089
Fax 503-579-6715
e-mail: searfus_r@subway.com

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION CHANGE:  PLEASE NOTE MY EMAIL ADDRESS HAS CHANGED TO searfus_r@subway.com.  Please update your address book to reflect this change.  We are undergoing a technology transition.  During this transition, you may still receive emails from the “sfaft.org” address.  This is not an error, but please enter my new subway.com email address when sending emails.

So I wrote this…

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 4:17 PM
Subject: Re: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: “Searfus, Rob” <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>

Thank you Rob,

I had actually wondered if anyone would reply.  I had an email chain going before with a Ms. Paula Gomez & Ms. Ana Seely… but they have been short replies and my main questions have gone unsanswered.

I’m in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  Thanks for your time, I hope to hear from your colleagues soon!

-Eric

But in the mean time, I made some pretty pictures.  I can’t decide which one I like the most.

Which one do you like best?

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Prepping for Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011


Okay, so I’m on a roll this morning.  That Subway stuff struck a nerve.  It reminded me that I would like to have more consumer-driven responses to food allergy issues, and less government mandates.  Food Allergy Awareness Week is not for a few months (May 8-14, 2011), but it doesn’t mean that you can’t start getting ready now.

I just wrote to the Food Network, requesting some Food Allergy Awareness.  I used their contact form, and this is what I had to say…

I’m a big fan of all the Food Network shows.  I’d love to see an Iron Chef battle where they can’t use any of the “top 8” allergens.  I am allergic to shellfish, and always recoil slightly when it’s a lobster or crab battle… or when the inevitable prawn works its way into a dish.  There is a Food Allergy Awareness week every May.  It would be great timing for such an event… and really help the allergy awareness and cross-contamination cause.  There are MANY food-allergic foodies out there!

I’m sure you’re aware that the top 8 allergens are Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  TO have an Iron Chef battle where they ahd to prepare meals without any of the top 8 allergens would be truly epic, and help show others out there that there ARE indeed alternatives & work-arounds when dealing with a life-threatening allergy.  Food allergy awareness week this year will be May 8-14, 2011.

Thank you for your time, I hope to hear your thoughts on this matter!

-Eric

I’d like to ask that you also write your own letter or email.  And, why stop at one? Please, share with me other places where you think we ought to write, and I’ll write to them too!

I’ll definitely be writing more, perhaps armed with statistics like the following (from Top8Free.com):

Prevalence of food allergies in the United States

Ninety percent of food allergies in the United States are caused by eight foods:  Milk, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish.  This website is dedicated to a diet free of these allergens.  Of course, it is possible to be allergic to just about any protein.  In Japan, rice allergy is one of the offenders.

Just to give you a sense of how many kids are suffering from food allergies today, here is a table of the most common food allergies.  This does not count children with milk-soy protien intollerance or Celiac disease, only children with Ig-E mediated food allergies.

Percentage of young children with allergy to:

  • Milk 2.5%
  • Egg 1.3%
  • Soy 1.1% (There is little agreement on this number.  Estimates range from 1 to 5%)
  • Wheat 1.0%
  • Peanut 0.8%
  • Tree nuts 0.2%
  • Fish 0.1%
  • Shellfish 0.1%
  • Overall 6 to 8% of population

Percentage of adults with allergy to:

  • Shellfish 2.0%
  • Peanut 0.6%
  • Tree nuts 0.5%
  • Fish 0.4%
  • Milk  0.3%
  • Egg 0.2%
  • Soy 0.2%
  • Overall 3.7%

Source: Hugh A. Sampson, MD. “Update on food allergy“, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 2004

While writing to politicians does gain some inroads, there are other productive avenues to explore.

 

Dunkin’ Donuts on Allergy Signage… [Case# 7577485]


Did you see my allergen warning sign photos from Dunkin’ Donuts and Giant Eagle?  I wrote to both of them to thank them for displaying the signs.  Giant Eagle was the first to reply, and now I’ve heard from Dunkin’ Donuts.  I submitted the following via webform:

Hello,

I was in the Dunkin’ Donuts in Dormont this weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised to see this allergen warning sign:  http://i127.photobucket.com/albums/p139/worldandlunardomination/Signs/p_00527.jpg

As someone who has a severe allergy, I found this to be a responsible and proactive decision on the part of Dunkin’ Donuts, and I just wanted you to know that it’s an appreciated gesture.

Thankfully, my allergy isn’t to peanuts, or I’d most likely go nowhere near your fine establishments, much like I currently avoid Red Lobster and Long John Silver’s due to my shellfish allergy.

I did, as the sign suggested, go to https://www.dunkindonuts.com/aboutus/nutrition/ in order to see allergen information for some of my favorite menu items.

I also see that you have a blanket *.pdf available showing nutrition information for all of your products.  Do you have something like this for allergens in all of your products?

It’s a red flag for me that you have “Crustaceans” on the list, and even expand upon it under the data table with “Crustaceans include, crab, crayfish, lobster, and shrimp.”

Do any of these creepy little sea-bugs show up in any of your products?  My curiosity is piqued, my friends!

Thank you for your time, and for responsibly posting allergen warnings.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Not dead yet,
-Eric

Ant they wrote back…

From:customerservicereply@dunkinbrands.com” <customerservicereply@dunkinbrands.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Tue, October 12, 2010
Subject: Case# 7577485 – Dunkin’ Donuts

Hi Eric,
Thank you for taking the time to contact Dunkin’ Donuts.
To answer your questions regarding allergens, the stores should have a printed document available behind the counter that will tell you if any of the allergens required to be listed by the FDA are in our products.
If you call our Consumer Care line, they can tell you as well.
As far as the shell fish listing on our forms, that form is required by the FDA. We have to show it on the form but you won’t see it checked off for any of our products.
I hope this answered your questions.
You can reach us at 800-859-5339 M-F 8:30AM to 5:00PM EST.
At Dunkin’ Donuts we value our customers and are committed to making your visits to our stores a pleasant experience.

Thank you and have a great day.

Louise
Customer Relations Associate

Reference # 7577485

It’s interesting how people intemperate the laws… I certainly don’t see standardized allergen information on all food-related websites. I’m glad that companies like this are at least trying to be active in their warning, and hope it’s not just a “CYA” measure.

It’s also interesting to note that I received a the same  exact reply to this message at least 13 times, all with the same case/reference number.  Weird.

https://aixelsyd13.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/allergy-sign-d-donuts-p_00527.jpg

Giant Eagle on Allergy Signage… [Incident #: 12702111]


So, remember my allergen warning sign photos from Dunkin’ Donuts and Giant Eagle?  I wrote to both of them to thank them for displaying the signs, and Giant Eagle is the first to reply.  I submitted this via webform:

Hello,

I’d like to thank you for actively posting allergen awareness/warning signage.  Sunday, I came upon this sign above some chocolate chunk (& other) cookies on a display table at the GE in Parkway Center: http://bit.ly/bg09rX

As someone with a severe allergy to shellfish, I appreciate these kinds of signs… but the all-inclusive sign begs the question:  Did these cookies come into contact with any shellfish in the bakery?  I hope not!  I worry enough about the crab cakes & seafood salad in the deli counters!

Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!

-Eric
me@my.email.address

And their reply:

From: sc autoemail <sc.autoemail@gianteagle.com>
To: “me@my.email.address” <me@my.email.address>
Sent: Fri, October 8, 2010 9:06:49 AM
Subject: In response to Giant Eagle Incident #: 12702111

ServiceCenter Operator: arabia michele

In response to your recent communication:

Incident #: 12702111

Brief Description:
Store: Parkway Center Giant Eagle Hello, I’d like to tha

Response:
At  10/08/10 09:06:47  we wrote:
10/08/10 09:06:47 (arabia michele):

Good Morning Eric,

Thank you for contacting Giant Eagle and for sharing your thoughts and concerns with us regarding our allergen signs and the possibility of cross-contamination of shellfish in the bakery.

The sign was generated to alert allergen sensitive customers that our stores do process all allergens. You are correct in your assumption that seafood is not present in the bakery department. We appreciate your feedback and will use it to determine signage needs in the future.

If you have any further questions or comments, please contact our Customer Care Department toll-free at 1-800-553-2324.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us and please know that we welcome your thoughts and feedback in the future.

Sincerely,

Michele Arabia
Bakery Merchandising Department
Giant Eagle, Inc.

I’d like to see stores become more active in labeling prepared foods, but this is a a start.  As noted in the comments on my last allergy post, they are currently doing more than required by law… so that’s a good thing.

 

https://aixelsyd13.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/allergy-sign-giant-eagle-p_00533.jpg

Allergen Signage


Over the weekend I was at two places where I saw these allergen signs, the Dunkin’ Donuts in Dormont, and the Giant Eagle in Parkway Center.  Generally when I see these signs it makes me happy that the place who’s taking my money is at the very least aware that there are products that they have on the premises that may cause certain people some discomfort or possibly even death.

Dunkin' Donuts | Allergen Warning Signage
Dunkin’ Donuts | Allergen Warning Signage

In viewing the allergen information online as the sign suggests, I’m glad that a glazed donut doesn’t contain any crustaceans, but I may now have to scour the rest of the site to see if anything does.   Ha ha ha.

Giant Eagle | Allergen Warning Signage
Giant Eagle | Allergen Warning Signage

I gambled yesterday, hoping that the chocolate chunk cookies  I purchased didn’t come into contact with any shellfish in the bakery.  If I died from eating them, according to this sign, it’s my fault.  I was warned, and should have discussed the risks of cross-contamination with my doctor.

You’ll hopefully be glad to know that I’m not dead, and I had a few cookies last night.  Wow, I had poor eating habits this weekend.  Ha ha ha.  Donuts & Cookies.

At any rate, the fact that they simply acknowledge that allergies exist is a great start.  It’s sad, but so many other food-service companies go with the “it’s not our problem” mantra.  I always thought that Five Guys Burgers  & Fries to be very pro-active with their peanut allergy warnings, and I have commented on the Market District in Robinson’s allergen warnings before.

If you suffer from allergies, do these signs make you feel safer, or are they a blanket statement like “No Lifeguard on Duty” or “Park at Your Own Risk”, trying to absolve the poster of any wrongdoing should a mishap occur?

The blanket statement from Giant Eagle seems a little forced, or an afterthought… as I’m sure there aren’t many lobster cookies in the bakery, but then again there just might be.  How am I to know?  Do I just take this sign as a warning to not eat any food that they prepare?  The sign itself is a great thing, but if it were tailored just a little more to the actual product, it might be more comforting.

I know I’m always afraid of the stuff in the deli counter that’s next to the crab cakes or a seafood salad…  I don’t want a pasta salad with death-fish in it.  Yes, that one little glob of death-juice can kill me.  I don’t see any allergen warning signs there where they’d also be appropriate.  But, I don’t want to get down on Giant Eagle.  They are taking steps in the right direction.  Perhaps I’ll even send them a quick email to let them know that as someone who suffers from a severe food allergy, I appreciate the signage.

If you suffer from allergies, have someone in the family that does, or have a friend that blathers incessantly about them (like me), I’d like to hear your thoughts on the signs.  Are they a good thing, or a bad thing?  Are they proactive or defensive?

What if you suffer from one that’s not a “big 8” allergen but also quite prevalent like corn, peppers, or chocolate?

Herbivoracious | Understanding Deadly Food Allergies – This Post Could Save A Life


The title says it all.  Saw this thanks to Twitter this morning.  This article is extremely well-written and the title says it all:

Herbivoracious | Understanding Deadly Food Allergies – This Post Could Save A Life

Please, check it out… and pass it on as it asks.  As I look through to try & grab a nice important point for a quote, I find multiple points to be profound.  Rather than re-posting the whole thing, just go read it!  You won’t be sorry.

Excerpt below…

For the purposes of this article, we aren’t talking about the “it gives me gas” allergies or personal dietary preferences, we are talking about deadly serious stuff. Every restaurant has its own policy on how to deal with food preferences, and we can argue all day about the best way to handle that. But when a customer tells you they have a very serious allergy, there are only two ethical choices you can make. You can serve the customer, making every feasible effort to ensure their food doesn’t contain the allergen. Or you can refuse to serve them. Any other choice puts that customer at grave and undue risk. It also threatens your reputation, finances and insurance, and your ability to sleep at night. Do you really want to risk poisoning your clientele?

Assuming the answer is no, the rest of this article is divided into three sections, for chefs & cooks, front of house, and management / owners. You should read all three sections so that you can understand each other’s responsibilities. This is geared toward folks in the restaurant industry, but home cooks can learn important ideas for when they entertain guests with food allergies.

Food Allergy Buzz | Shellfish Allergies at the Beach


Just saw a cool tweet this morning, linking to an article from Food Allergy Buzz called Shellfish Allergies at the Beach.  It excites me because 95% of the time I see a food allergy related article, it involved peanuts or wheat/gluten, and the other 4% of the time it’s tree nuts or lactose intolerance.

Basically, it’s asking those of us afflicted about our beach fears.  I hope it sparks some discussion, and I’d like to find more of us out there!

I had never really thought about the possibility of swallowing a brine shrimp while in the ocean or being pinched by a crab and what might happen…  Heh.  I know I have handled hermit crabs without incident, and even went crab fishing when I was younger with no issues…  I just can’t eat the things.

My issues with going to the beach (besides being a bit overweight and a pasty/chalky white under my T-shirt line) mainly revolve around finding places to eat that don’t serve some kind of shrimp, crab, lobster, oyster, clam, mussel, or calamari dish.  It’s damn near impossible… whether it’s a bar, a road-side or boardwalk stand, or (of course) fine dining… it’s inescapable.

Anxiety over potential cross-contamination is a normal issue for me, but it goes up to 11 at the beach.