The verification of supplier food safety has emerged as a critical component of a retail operation’s Food Safety Management System (FSMS), but we continue to see Subway stress supplier safety while poor management of its own operations results in outbreaks of foodborne illness.

See Bill Marler’s Food Safety News to learn how a Subway contributed to a community wide outbreak of norovirus gastroenteritis.

In light of the costs borne by the supply chain to satisfy retail industries’ high standards for prevention, it is unfair for a firm as influential as Subway to have lax control over its own operations.  

It’s critical to have safe lettuce coming in the backdoor, but if an infected employee handles it, it negates all the costly prevention done upstream by suppliers. The revelation that this was allowed to happen creates animosity on the part of suppliers and undermines Subway’s own efforts at supplier control.

Subways’ food safety management system failed as the result of poor decision making; what we see here is the failure of food safety culture. Subway has an obligation to consumers who expect the company to be a supplier of safe wholesome food. Subway has an obligation to its suppliers to maintain the same vigilance over food safety they expect from them. By failing its obligations, Subway risks the reputation it has built, and the value of its brand.

As consumers, we should expect MUCH more of Subway. As food safety professionals, we should ask “what is the root cause of this failure” and “how best can Subway’s management solve the problem”.