When is bread not bread? When it’s a Subway

Subway have made the news today after the Irish court ruled that the bread that they make their sandwiches with cannot be considered bread at all.

One of Subway’s franchisees appealed to have the tax removed from their sandwiches arguing that the sandwiches they sell are a staple food and as such should not be subject to tax.

However, the court ruled that rather than being a staple food their bread was so high in sugar that it could not be considered to be bread at all. Under the rules of what constitutes bread as a staple food it should not contain more than 2% sugar. The subway loaf contains 10% sugar. For every 500g of flour subway add 50g of sugar.

When I teach people to make bread I always make it clear that bread doesn’t need any sugar in the recipe at all. Many traditional recipes include a teaspoon of sugar to activate the yeast. The yeast doesn’t need it. There is plenty of sugar locked in the starch molecules waiting for the enzymes to break it down from a chain of complex sugar into simple sugars so that the yeast can get to work munching.

Feel free to add honey or molasses if your bread will benefit in flavour from it, but remember that sugar isn’t necessary to make good bread and, according to the Irish courts, adding more than 2% of the flour weight (10g for 500g flour) will mean it can no longer be considered a staple of your diet.

If this story highlights anything it is that homemade bread or bread bought from a good bakery that uses only flour, water, salt, yeast and time is much better for you and that we can’t always be sure exactly what is in the food that we are buying.

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