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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Jimmy John’s Stops Selling Sprouts, But It Does Not Stop E. coli Lawsuit

The Outbreak

Screen Shot 2012-02-21 at 8.20.24 AM.png4.         On February 15, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control announced an ongoing investigation into illnesses linked to the consumption of raw clover sprouts consumed at Jimmy John’s Restaurants in several states.

5.         Among 11 ill persons with information available, 10 (91%) reported eating at a Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurant in the 7 days preceding illness. Ill persons reported eating at 9 different locations of Jimmy John’s restaurants in 4 states in the week before becoming ill. One Jimmy John’s restaurant location was identified where more than one ill person reported eating in the week before becoming ill. Among the 10 ill persons who reported eating at a Jimmy John’s restaurant location, 8 (80%) reported eating a sandwich containing sprouts, and 9 (90%) reported eating a sandwich containing lettuce. Currently, no other common grocery stores or restaurants are associated with illnesses.

6.         Preliminary traceback information has identified a common lot of clover seeds used to grow clover sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurant locations where ill persons ate. Officials from the Food and Drug Administration, and various states, conducted a traceback that identified two separate sprouting facilities; both used the same lot of seed to grow clover sprouts served at these Jimmy John’s restaurant locations. On February 10, 2012, the seed supplier initiated notification of sprouting facilities that received this lot of clover seed to stop using it. Investigations are ongoing to identify other locations that may have sold clover sprouts grown from this seed lot.

Prior Jimmy John’s Outbreaks Linked to Sprouts

            7.         In 2010, Sprouters Northwest of Kent, Washington, issued a product recall after the company’s clover sprouts were implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella Newport in Oregon and Washington. At least some of the cases had consumed clover sprouts while at a Jimmy John’s restaurants.  A total of at least 7 people were sickened in the outbreak.

            8.         In 2010, 140 people, mostly residents of Illinois, were sickened by of Salmonella, serotype I4,[5],12:i:-, in an outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts served on Jimmy Johns sandwiches.  On December 21, 2010, Jimmy John Liautaud, the owner of the franchised restaurant chain, requested that all franchisees remove sprouts from the menu as a “precautionary” measure. On December 23, the Centers for Disease Control revealed that outbreak cases had been detected in other states and that the outbreak was linked with eating alfalfa sprouts while at a nationwide sandwich chain, a/k/a “Jimmy Johns”. On December 26, preliminary results of the investigation indicated a link to eating Tiny Greens’ Alfalfa Sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant outlets.

            9.         In 2009, at least 256 people were infected by Salmonella Saintpaul after consuming contaminated alfalfa sprouts.  Many of the 256 cases, but not all, were sickened after eating the contaminated sprouts on Jimmy Johns sandwiches.  The initial traceback of the sprouts indicated that although the sprouts had been distributed by various companies, the sprouts from the first cases originated from the same sprouting facility in Omaha, Nebraska. Forty-two of the illnesses beginning on March 15 were attributed to sprout growing facilities in other states; these facilities had obtained seed from the same seed producer, Caudill Seed Company of Kentucky. The implicated seeds had been sold in many states. On April 26, the FDA and CDC recommended that consumers not eat raw alfalfa sprouts, including sprout blends containing alfalfa sprouts. In May, FDA alerted sprout growers and retailers that a seed supplier, Caudill Seed Company of Kentucky, was withdrawing all alfalfa seeds with a specific three-digit prefix.

            10.       In 2008, at least 28 people were sickened in and around Boulder Colorado with E. coli O157:NM after consuming sandwiches containing contaminated alfalfa sprouts at several Jimmy Johns locations.  The investigation by Boulder County health officials revealed that consumption of alfalfa sprouts at the Jimmy John’s Restaurants in Boulder County and Adams County were risk factors for illness. In addition, the environmental investigation identified Boulder Jimmy John’s food handlers who were infected with E. coli and who had worked while ill. The health department investigation found a number of critical food handling violations, including inadequate handwashing. The fourteen isolates from confirmed cases were a genetic match to one another.

Download Iowa Jimmy John’s Complaint