April 2, 2020

FDA Lists Jimmy John’s Sprout Outbreaks in Warning Letter

The FDA has finally sent a warning letter about Jimmy John’s sprout outbreaks in the wake of the latest one: an E. coli O103 outbreak that has sickened at least 22 people in Iowa that is lined to raw clover sprouts produced by Sprouts Unlimited of Marion, Iowa. There are five food poisoning outbreaks linked to that restaurant chain that go back to 2012, and more earlier than that.

FDA Lists Jimmy John's Sprout Outbreaks in Warning Letter

These are the outbreaks listed in the FDA warning letter:

  • The current E. coli O103 outbreak is linked to 15 Jimmy John’s restaurants in Iowa. Clover sprouts from Sprouts Unlimited are the culprit. At least 22 people are sick. Illness onset dates range from November 21, 2019 to December 14m 2019.
  • In 2018, at least 10 people were sickened with Salmonella Montevideo infections after eating raw sprouts from Jimmy John’s restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin. Patients live in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
  • In 2014, 19 people were sickened with E. coli O121 infections in Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Utah, California, and Washington after eating raw clover sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants. Clover sprouts served at the restaurants were from the same sprout grower.
  • In 2013, 8 people in Colorado were sickened with E. coli O157:H7 infections lined to raw cucumbers at one of three Jimmy John’s restaurants in Denver. Once again, the restaurants received cucumbers from the same source.
  • Finally, in 2012, 29 people in 11 states were sickened with E. coli O26 infections after eating sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants.

The warning letter stats that, “Taken together, these outbreaks, which spanned over the past seven years and impacted no fewer than seventeen states demonstrate the corporate-wide supplier control mechanisms you have in place for receiving fresh produce are inadequate.”

Management at Jimmy John’s has changed their mind about sprouts on their menu a few times. After the 2012 outbreak, a letter sent to franchise owners stated that sprouts were being pulled from the menu. But later that year raw sprouts were used again.

Also in 2012, Jimmy John’s told the FDA during a meeting that they would, “offer only clover sprouts, and to only source clover sprouts from (b)(4) suppliers.  Since that corrective action, your firm has been implicated in three additional sprout-related outbreaks.  Documents from traceback investigations conducted by FDA, states and local partners demonstrate that in addition to (b)(4) sprouts, Jimmy John’s restaurants are using multiple other sources of sprouts.”

Attorney Fred Pritzker

You can contact food safety attorney Fred Pritzker for help if you have been sickened in a Jimmy John’s sprout outbreak by calling 1-888-377-8900 or 612-338-0202.

Furthermore, the company has not supplied the FDA with any information that demonstrates “long term, long-term, sustainable corrections have been implemented throughout your organization to prevent this violation from recurring in the future.” If the chain doesn’t comply, the FDA can seize products and enact a permanent injunction.

Raw sprouts can be an inherently risky food, since bacteria can be encapsulated inside the seed, and growing conditions are perfect for bacterial growth. The FDA recommends that anyone in a high risk group for serious food poisoning complications avoid raw sprouts completely unless they are thoroughly cooked.

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