Court Rules Bread Does Not Meet Definition of Bread

sandwichSubway sandwich (not to scale)

It seems like only yesterday, but was in fact November 17, 2006, when I reported that Judge Jeffrey Locke had determined that a burrito is not a sandwich. I thought the result in that case was correct even though it wasn’t entirely clear what legal test the court had applied, and that possibly the judge was unduly impressed with the parade of culinary experts who apparently testified on this important issue. That case only involved a lease at a shopping mall, though. This one could spark an international incident.

Well, it’s not impossible that it might, if there were somebody who had an incentive to start a war over something stupid in the next 30 days or so. Luckily I can’t think of anyone like that.

On Tuesday, Ireland’s Supreme Court held that the bread in Subway sandwiches is not “bread” for purposes of the country’s Value Added Tax Act of 1972. Under that law, passed at a time when Ireland was desperately short of hyphens, bread taxation depends on whether the bread meets certain criteria necessary to make it a “staple food.” Among other things, the the weight of sugar in the bread must not exceed two percent of the weight of flour. If the bread meets all the criteria, then it is a “staple food” and therefore tax-free. If not, then it would be in the category of “all other confectionery and bakery products whether cooked or uncooked,” and therefore subject to a 13.5% VAT.

Turns out that the bread in a Subway sandwich “has a sugar content of 10% of the weight of the flour included in the dough” (emphasis added), five times the applicable limit. Which … kind of seems like a lot?

The analysis is actually more complicated than the above suggests, and the opinion has a lot to say about principles of statutory interpretation. For example, the court says that—

Excuse me, I’ve just been handed a bulletin.

According to this, Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus.

I apologize, but all resources previously committed to discussing the nature of statutory interpretation under Irish law, or other questions raised by the opinion, such as the proper classification of hot meatball sandwiches that do meet the criteria above, are now being diverted on an emergency basis to more critical tasks such as the creation and deployment of tweets.

In the interim, you may wish to review some of my previous sandwich-related coverage, such as a libel suit against a food critic who made fun of a restaurant’s strip steak; a lawsuit against Blimpie’s claiming that their “Super Stacked” sandwiches did not actually contain “twice the meat” of their competitors’ offering; a carnival worker’s claim that his chicken sandwich exploded when he bit into it; and the Seventh Circuit’s ruling that plaintiffs’ lawyers should not get $525,000 in fees for achieving an “utterly worthless” settlement in a case alleging that Subway’s “footlong” sandwiches were not, in fact, exactly one foot long.