Aussie "footlong" only 11 inches

A "footlong" sandwich was measured to be merely 11 inches in length at a Subway restaurant in Australia. [Reuters]


  1. I, in my capacity as an Innocent Lamb of Commerce, shall proceed to presume that 13-inch ‘footlongs’ occur with the same frequency as 11-inch ones, and that this represents a mere variation in manufacture, rather than a systematic economizing at the expense of truth…

    1. Try that with a British pint, mate. You won’t get very far.
      If something is described as a ‘footlong’ customers should expect a minimum of twelve inches not an average of twelve inches.

      1. It could be that New England is sloppier than Ye Olde Englande; but I’ve definitely seen some foam-induced variation in the precise usable fluid volume between glasses and more or less heady beer types at the bar. Nobody seems to mind so long as the variation is small and doesn’t have a pervasive house skew (as it turns out, if you aren’t an asshole and you tip reasonably well, small natural variations in pour precision magically start being your friend, it’s totally mysterious…)

        (Also, I suspect that precisely controlling the length of baked goods not formed in mould-style pans is a bit tricky, so I’d be more concerned about being stiffed on the filling quantity, rather than precisely how far the roll slumped during cooking).

        1. Short measures are a serious issue here.

          From the Telegraph

          Nine out of ten pint drinkers are being given short measures in pubs, according to trading standards watchdogs.

          In several establishments, officers were shocked to find that almost 90per cent of the pints of beer ordered were short measure, with the worst pint having a shortfall of up to 11.8per cent — effectively a £0.40p overcharge on each pint of beer.

          In a survey of 30 pubs, bars and restaurants, 88 pints were bought by Trading Standards Officers in Birmingham. Only 9 drinks were a full pint, making over 88per cent of pints pulled short measure. The average shortfall found was 3.94 per cent.

          The prices for a round of 3 pints varied widely, from £6.40 to £10.55, with many rounds costing almost £10. However, the prices had little bearing on the quantity, with some of the most expensive having the greatest shortfall. In many cases, this equated to an overcharge of nearly £1 on a round of three drinks.

          Neil Eustace, chairman of the City Council Public Protection Committee, said: “I am disappointed to see a rise in short measure beer and we are considering formal action in some of the worst cases. Customers should not hesitate to ask for a top-up if their pint looks a little low on festive cheer.”

          The Weights and Measures Act 1985 states that a pint of beer should be exactly that and offences are committed for short deliveries.

      2. But that because alcohol is usually a controlled substance.  Some countries have strict laws on the amount served.  Where I lived, there was a case where the bar had to repurchase their entire set of shot glasses since they were caught over serving.

        In this case, I think the expectations of how much bread expands/raises is too variable to be a fault.

        1. For that reason bread is usually sold by weight and not length.
          There are plenty of ways in which to emphasise the size of a product without using specific weights and measures. Where these are used in names of products or services people might reasonably expect them to mean something specific.

  2. I have an irrational dislike of Subway (irrational in that it is out of proportion considering the scale of importance of a fast food joint in my every day life). I’ve been to three of their venues here in Amsterdam, more than once. Every single time, the places have been dirty, smelling of some undefined but gross substance and their product has been one step above inedible. More aggravating even: they are expensive for what they sell.

    A mediocre Doner kebab in this city is a gourmet dish compared to their subs, and half the price to boot. For someone like me, one inch less would actually be a reward.

    1. I don’t mind Subway. The stores do a have distinctive smell (deliberately, I suspect), but I don’t find it particularly offensive. I tend to get the sandwich on flatbread.

      You seem to have given them a fair chance, given that you find the food virtually inedible.

      1. I did. I *hate* food snobbery, in the sense of people who look down on certain chains or types of food so before I write something off completely, I tend to give it a few tries. Still, Subway is a no go if I can avoid it.

        And this coming from someone who kinda loves KFC wings. Which, you know, as I said in my comment above: irrational…

      1. What is that smell? They all have it and they all vent it to the outside, so I think it’s corporate policy rather than chance. My best guess is that it’s intended to evoke the smell of fresh-baked bread, but it was created by someone who had never actually smelled fresh-baked bread.

        It’s just bizarre, and more than a little off-putting.

      2. I’ve never been in a Subway, but I’m guessing that you’re talking about that “excess amount of yeast consuming an excess amount of sugar in the dough” smell that comes from crappy bread factories. I assume that it speeds up rising time.

    2. It may be an urban myth but I’ve been told subway quite literally pumps that smell out. Think ‘Glade Sense and Spray’ Airfreshners, but with “crappy fake bread” instead of “Pine Mist” inserted in the damn things.

  3. And John Ralph made the case for the necessity of that extra inch: “An inch or two can mean a big difference … if the Titanic had missed the iceberg by an inch or two it wouldn’t have sunk.”

    Yeah, but if the Titanic had been 1 inch left or right, it still would have. I suspect ‘missed the iceberg by an inch’ would have been a difference of several footlongs.

  4. I believe Subway once got in trouble with some U.S. state’s Bureau of Weights and Measures, because it turned out that the shortest allowed length for a sandwich advertised as 3 feet long (the state allows something like 8% variance) was longer than would fit in the box.

  5. So, unlike the USA Subways, all the subway restaurants in the UK or anywhere in Europe and I’m guessing also in Australia are not allowed to put the same Azodicarbonamide into the dough?  I know it is outlawed in Europe.  I was just wondering if it is allowed to poison the Australians as the USDA was obviously somehow coersed into allowing this poison in the Subway dough here in the US. The principal use of azodicarbonamide is in the production of foamed plastics as an additive. The thermal decomposition of azodicarbonamide results in the evolution of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and ammonia gases, which are trapped in the polymer as bubbles to form a foamed article. Are you getting hungry yet?

    1. Nitrogen? 70%+ of it in the air I breathe already; only dangerous if it displaces all the oxygen in the air.
      Carbon dioxide? Same idea (though it’s heavier than air, so there’s the risk of it accumulating if you have some cubic meters going around.)
      Carbon monoxide is admittedly poisonous if you inhale enough. If every single bubble in a sub was CO, and you inhaled the entire thing fairly quickly? Maybe bad. In these amounts? Harmless.
      Ammonia? Not that great for you, but I sincerely doubt the amount in their bread will compare even remotely to the salmiac liquorice I eat (for one thing, that would make the entire thing taste like a scandinavian candy shop.)

      Besides, you missed the main breakdown product, biurea. Its the one I’d be the most wary of, given that it’s an absorbed solid – though the evidence is that it’s rapidly expelled (through urine) and doesn’t do any harm.

      1. Strictly speaking, when it comes to CO inhaling “enough” happens at ridiculously low dosages. Check out the acute dosage table in

        Death after a few hours at as little as 0.16%, death within minutes at 1.28% (yes, those decimal points are in the right place).

        If every single bubble in the bread was CO and you inhaled it you would die.

    2. Digging around a bit, it seems E927a (Azodicarbonamide) isn’t listed as allowed in the EU, while E927b (carbamide) is.

      The only information I’ve seen on why is that the material itself is a respiratory sensitivizer – it can irritate the airways when inhaled, (triggering asthma attacks and such), which is reason good enough to ban it, especially when it doesn’t seem to be hard to replace or even manage without.

      And if the combination of answers here seem odd: I really hate knee-jerk “omg chemicals!” scaremongering, and listing the alternative industrial uses for a product plus a list of (harmless) breakdown chemicals that sound a bit iffy to the uninformed is well into that territory. In this specific case, I agree that it shouldn’t be used – but given that the study in question was talking about factory workers inhaling the stuff, not people eating a bit of the breakdown products, I’d worry far less than what you’re aiming for.

    3. Right, I think I’ve found out why it’s not allowed in the EU: It might also break down to semicarbazide, which might be carcinogenic. The results seem inconclusive, but that’s good enough reason to ban it just in case.

      There is a WHO page for semicarbazide ( ) , which mainly focuses on it leeching from plastics, and recommends that it be banned, especially from baby food glasses (which the EU followed up on some years ago).
      Quoting from the linked page:

      The presence of SEM has raised concern since it has weak carcinogenic activity when fed to laboratory animals at high doses.

      Further studies aimed at clarifying whether SEM is formed from azodicarbonamide are needed. In addition, better information on the mechanism of toxicity and on exposure to SEM from all sources would help to define the nature of what is now considered to be a low risk to human health.

      So, yeah. It might break down to something that might be dangerous in large amounts, and it’s easy to replace. Good enough reason to skip it, though it’s a long stretch to call it “poison”.

  6. Long may your innocence not be crushed by commercial realities.  Should you ever run across a 2×4’s at your local lumberyard or big-box hardware store, with cross sectional dimensions of 2 full inches by 4 full inches, you’ll need to have it bronzed and put on a pedestal in the marketplace for display as a proof that there can be truth and fair-dealing in commerce.*  Back to Subway, the problem isn’t just in Austrailia.  The NY Post finds the foot-longs to be undersized in NYC, too.  Four out of seven sandwiches were in the 11″ to 11.5″ range.**

    1. At least lumber measures, while dysfunctional, are pretty stable within a given period of time.

      A “2×4” isn’t actually 2×4; but it is 1.5×3.5 and has been since 1961. Is it rather annoying that the product name isn’t its actual dimensions when it easily could be? Yes. However, the situation is stable and consistent, just not with the naive meaning of the jargon term.

    2. It’s called a 2×4 because that’s what it would be in rough lumber, which is how it was sold for quite some time.  A nominal 2×4 is the same product as a rough 2×4 except that you don’t have to plane it yourself.  There’s no equivalent rationale for the sandwich.

  7. I guess that the young gentleman doesn’t have much experience responding to gay dating ads.

  8. I think Subway Corporate’s official lawyery response to this incident was something to the effect of, “‘Footlong’ is a trademarked term owned by Subway and not an indicator of measurement.” Pretty ballsy (and lulzy) even for lawyercritters.


    From:  History of Yard Lumber Size Standards, U.S. Forest Service, pub. Sept. 1964

    “Trend in Lumber Size Standards
    There is strong competition not only among regional areas of lumber production but also between lumber and other construction materials. Survival of the lumber manufacturer demands the utmost efficiency. This economic pressure has been a compelling reason for the continuing erosion of standard sizes. Fifty years ago, 13/16 inch was a common thickness for the dressed 1-inch board, By 1929, 25/32 inch had become more common, the 3/4-inch board appeared in 1956, and the 5/8-inch board is now proposed. This latter value is no longer related to the nominal 1-inch thickness. Likewise, lumber dressed dry to 1-1/2 inches thickness does not require 2 inches rough green. The thinner boards and dimension are, of course, useful, and technical information to show their usefulness has been developed.”

    The shrinkage in lumber sizes is partially, perhaps, to allow for drying and surfacing.  But it’s mostly just for economic reasons.  If the industry wanted to sell finished products at 2” x 4” (or if the government required it to), it certainly could.  And if you check the history as outlined in the above document, the industry used to at least come closer to true measures than it does now.  If, as observed above, lumber dressed dry to 1-1/2 inches does not require 2 inches rough green; then it’s fair to state that an actual board of 2 inches rough green will, dressed dry, yield a board thicker than 1-1/2.  If the industry is selling a 1-1/2″ board these days, it didn’t come from a “2” board.  And it shouldn’t be labelled as such.  In my opinion, anyway.

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