Possible link to Salmonella and sprouts

At least two cases of illness in Wisconsin have been linked to a possible outbreak of disease from Salmonella. The investigation is tied to the Jimmy John’s sandwich chain and specifically to sprouted seeds (sprouts) served by the restaurant.  As a result, on Saturday (January 20, 2018), Jimmy John’s pulled sprouts from the menu at all 2,727 franchise locations until further notice. State and local health departments as well as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating a recent cluster of Salmonella Montevideo infections, and investigators believe the most likely source of the infection are sprouts from multiple Jimmy John’s locations.


Symptoms of Salmonella infection may include headache, muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, chills, fever, nausea and dehydration. Symptoms usually appear 6 to 72 hours after ingesting the bacteria, but it can take longer for them to develop. Most illnesses resolve on their own and do not require treatment other than drinking fluids to stay hydrated. Anyone who experiences persistent or severe symptoms should contact a healthcare provider.

Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. Salmonella can contaminate almost any food. There is a long history of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with sprouts. Here are some facts from Foodsafety.gov that you should know about sprouts.

Sprouted Seeds: What You Should Know

Do sprouts carry a risk of illness? Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts carry a risk of foodborne illness. Unlike other fresh produce, seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. These conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

Have sprouts been associated with outbreaks of foodborne illness? Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Salmonella or a pathogenic strain of E. coli.

What is the source of the bacteria? In outbreaks associated with sprouts, the seed is typically the source of the bacteria. There are a number of approved techniques to kill harmful bacteria that may be present on seeds and even tests for seeds during sprouting. But, no treatment is guaranteed to eliminate all harmful bacteria.

Are homegrown sprouts safer? Not necessarily. If just a few harmful bacteria are present in or on the seed, the bacteria can grow to high levels during sprouting, even under sanitary conditions at home.

What can consumers do to reduce the risk of illness?

  • Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should, at all times, avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
  • Even healthy adults concerned about their health should request that raw sprouts not be added to their food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant or delicatessen, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added.

Overall, stay food-safe. Barb