Update! Jimmy John’s Permanently Dropping Sprouts From Menus (Outbreak Linked to Raw Sprouts Sickens 12)

Jimmy John’s Permanently Dropping Sprouts From Menus

Blames The Negative Press

by Dan Flynn | Feb 20, 2012
Or, is the 5th “Sproutbreak” in four years the reason?Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich franchise owners and customers are being told the chain is permanently dropping sprouts from the menu.

Jimmy John’s restaurants are currently associated with a five-state outbreak of the rare O26 strain of E. coli.   It is the fifth outbreak involving sprouts traced back to Jimmy John’s franchises since 2008.
While there has been no public comment by Jimmy John’s since the outbreak was announced Feb. 15,  a Kirkville, MO franchise owner says “Jimmy himself” has ordered all sprouts permanently removed from the menu.
“Jimmy decided he was tired of the negative press from it and he thinks sprouts aren’t necessary for Jimmy John’s to rock,” franchise owner Will Aubuchon told the Daily Express in Kirksville, MO.
And Linda DeGraaf, a Jimmy John’s customer from Omaha who was sickened in the 2009 outbreak, was told by a corporate email that sprouts have been dropped.  “We no longer serve sprouts because supplies are too inconsistent,” wrote a Jimmy John’s spokeswoman.  http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/the-free-market-actually-works-if-consumers-are-informed—jimmy-johns-to-stop-serving-sprouts/
After a 2010 outbreak,  founder Jimmy John Liautaud switched the sandwich chain to clover sprouts after Salmonella illnesses were associated with alfalfa sprouts.    He thought clover sprout seeds were smoother and would be easier to clean.
Jimmy John’s is not alone among sandwich chains who have decided sprouts are too risky.   The 230-unit Jason’s Deli dropped sprouts for at least the balance of 2012 as a food safety concern.   And the current O26 outbreak prompted the seven state Erbert and Gerbert’s Sandwich Shops to drop sprouts.
Jimmy John’s recent history includes five major outbreaks involving spouts.  Only the latest involves E coli O26.   Briefly here’s the history of each of those incidents, including the latest ongoing event:
2011 – E. coli O26
On Feb. 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an ongoing investigation into illnesses linked to consumption of raw clover sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants.
Twelve are sickened in five states.  Among the 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. 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.
FDA and 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.  http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2012/O26-02-12/index.html

2010 (Dec) – Salmonella Newport
Sprouters Northwest of Kent, WA, issued a product recall after the company’s clover sprouts had been implicated in an outbreak in Oregon and Washington. At least some of the cases had consumed clover sprouts while at a Jimmy John’s restaurants.  Seven were sickened.

2010 (Dec) – Salmonella I4,[5],12:i:-
A second outbreak involving Jimmy John’s was reported Dec. 17, 2010 by the Illinois Department of Health.   Many of the Illinois cases reported eating alfalfa sprouts at various Jimmy John’s franchises in an outbreak that sickened 140.
Four days later, on Dec. 21, Jimmy John Liautaud asked all of his franchises to remove sprouts from the menu as a “precautionary” measure.
On Dec. 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.”
 On Dec. 26, preliminary results of the investigation indicated a link to eating Tiny Greens’ Alfalfa Sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant outlets. The FDA subsequently advised consumers and restaurants to avoid Tiny Greens Brand Alfalfa Sprouts and Spicy Sprouts produced by Tiny Greens Organic Farm of Urbana, Illinois. Spicy sprouts contained alfalfa, radish and clover sprouts.
On January 14, 2011, it was revealed that the FDA had isolated Salmonella serotype I4, [5], 12:i: – from a water runoff sample collected from Tiny Greens Organic Farm; the Salmonella isolated was indistinguishable from the outbreak strain. The several FDA inspections of the sprout growing facility revealed factors that likely led to contamination of the sprouts.  http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/i4512i-/122810/index.html
2009 – Salmonella Saintpaul
Jimmy John’s, which the CDC at the time identified at “Restaurant Chain A” was caught up in one of the largest recent sprout-related outbreaks.
A total of 256 were sickened in an outbreak first reported in February by the, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.  Officials there identified six isolates of Salmonella Saintpaul. Although this is a common strain of Salmonella, in the previous year only three cases had been detected in Nebraska and only four subtypes of this outbreak strain had been identified in the entire USA.
Alfalfa sprout consumption was found in a case study to be significantly related to illness. The initial tracebacks of the sprouts indicated that although various companies had distributed the sprouts, the sprouts from the first cases originated from the same sprouting facility in Omaha.
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.
2008 – E coli O157:NM
An outbreak of E. coli O157:NM in Colorado’s Boulder and Adams counties, including the University of Colorado, was linked to the consumption of alfalfa sprouts from Jimmy John’s franchises in the area.
The sickened, including several UC students, experienced symptoms of bloody diarrhea and cramping with O157 determined to be the cause.  A total of 28 illnesses were associated with the outbreak.
In addition, the environmental investigation identified  Jimmy John’s food handlers in Boulder, CO who worked while infected with E. coli. The health department investigation found a number of critical food handling violations, including inadequate hand washing. The fourteen isolates from confirmed cases were a genetic match to one another.  http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/17669936/detail.html

© Food Safety News

More Headlines from Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

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Jimmy John’s ‘most likely’ source

by Mary Rothschild | Feb 15, 2012

Twelve people in fives states have been infected with E. coli O26 in an outbreak linked to raw clover sprouts served at Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Iowa has reported five cases, Missouri three, Kansas two, while Arkansas and Wisconsin have each reported one person infected with the outbreak strain, the CDC said in an investigation report Wednesday.

Those sickened range in age from 9 to 49 years old. Median age is 25. All the victims are female. Two of the 12 have been hospitalized.

The CDC says the onset of their illnesses ranged from Dec. 25, 2011 to Jan. 15, 2012.

“Preliminary results of the epidemiologic and trace back investigations indicate eating raw clover sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants is the likely cause of this outbreak,” the CDC concluded in its report.

Raw sprouts served on sandwiches at Jimmy John’s restaurants have been associated with multiple foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years.

In 2008, at least 19 E. coli O157:H7 cases were linked to alfalfa sprouts sold at Colorado Jimmy John’s restaurants. In 2009, 228 people became ill in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas after eating Salmonella-contaminated sprouts at several restaurants, including Jimmy John’s outlets.

In late 2010, a 16-state Salmonella outbreak that struck 94 people was linked, in part, to alfalfa and spicy sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants, while a separate outbreak of Salmonella a month later, which sickened seven people in Oregon and Washington, was also tied to Jimmy John’s sandwiches.

Following those outbreaks, the company announced it was switching from alfalfa sprouts to clover sprouts nationwide.

In this latest outbreak, there’s strong epidemiologic evidence tying the illnesses to the Jimmy John’s chain.

Among 11 of the ill people who gave information to investigators, 10 — or 91 percent — reported eating at a Jimmy John’s restaurant in the week before they became sick. Among those 10, eight said they ate a sandwich containing sprouts and 9 reported eating a sandwich containing lettuce.

The ill people ate at nine different Jimmy John’s locations in four states, the CDC reported.

A trace back investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues, but the CDC said preliminary evidence points to a common lot of clover seeds used to germinate the sprouts served at the Jimmy John’s outlets where the sick people ate.

“FDA and states conducted a trace back 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,” the report stated. “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.”

At this time, the CDC said no other restaurants or grocery stores are associated with the outbreak.

PulseNet, the national surveillance system of foodborne illnesses, is being used to identify additional cases that might be part of the outbreak.

But the E. coli serotype in this latest outbreak is rare, and the genetic fingerprint pattern has never been seen before in PulseNet, the CDC said. The 026 serotype is among the so-called “Big Six” E. coli strains soon to be regulated in ground beef.

The CDC notes that because non-O157 E. coli strains are more difficult to identify than E. coli O157:H7, many clinical laboratories do not test stool specimens for them and therefore O26 infections may go undiagnosed and unreported.

When Jimmy John’s began serving raw clover sprouts a year ago, it did so saying it hoped to decrease the chances of contamination. Clover seeds are smoother than alfalfa seeds, and presumably easier to sanitize.

Sprouts, which have been the cause of many foodborne epidemics, are considered a high-risk food because they have the potential to carry large amounts of pathogens. If the seeds used to germinate sprouts become contaminated with feces from domestic or wild animals – perhaps through contaminated water or improperly composted manure fertilizer – the sprouts will also be contaminated. The warm, moist conditions used to grow sprouts permit harmful bacteria to rapidly multiply.

Citing food safety concerns, Wal-Mart stopped carrying sprouts in its stores in October 2010. Last month, the national restaurant chain Jason’s Deli announced it would not serve sprouts for the remainder of 2012 and possibly 2013.

Since 2000, sprouts have been linked to 30 foodborne illness outbreaks in North America, Europe and Australia, including last spring’s outbreak of E. coli O104:H4 centered in Germany, which sickened 4,321 people and killed more than 50. That outbreak has been linked to sprouts grown from contaminated fenugreek seeds.

The continued use of raw sprouts in the face of multiple outbreaks has many baffled, including food safety attorney Bill Marler, publisher of Food Safety News. “As a business man I am left wondering why a company would continue to take this kind of financial and public relations risk,” Marler said in a news release. “As a food safety advocate I am concerned that customer safety is not being taken seriously.”

“When people think of sprouts, they think of a health food. They aren’t thinking about serious illness, hospitalization, or worse,” he said. “However, the track record for sprouts suggests that consumers ought to know the dangers. And, of course the onus for providing this information falls on those who are selling sprouts.”

Marler has suggested that sprout growers include a warning label on their product that alerts consumers to the risks associated with consuming raw sprouts.

CDC Outbreak Map:

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