The Record on Sprouts and Illness

The Illinois-Wisconsin region continues as the center of a Salmonella montevideo outbreak likely caused by raw sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants.

According to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight residents of three states —Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota — have been infected with Salmonella montevideo. There have not been any deaths or hospitalizations associated with the outbreak. Epidemiological evidence indicates that raw sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants are a likely source of this multistate outbreak, according to the CDC. Jimmy John’s reacted to the outbreak by taking raw sprouts off the menu at all 2,727 franchise locations.

In recent years, Jimmy John’s has temporarily dropped sprouts from its menu in response to foodborne illness outbreaks. It also changed up the types of sprouts it serves and its sources for those sprouts. Here is a look back at some of those outbreaks:

  • [2018 multistate Salmonella outbreak; 8 sickened – investigation ongoing]
  • 2014 multistate E. coli O121 outbreak; alfalfa sprouts; 19 sickened
    Public health officials in California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Utah and Washington collaborated with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O121 illnesses that occurred in May 2014. A total of 19 people were sickened; no deaths were reported. The likely source of the outbreak was raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts LLC of Hayden, ID. The sprouts were used by a limited number of sandwich establishments, including Jimmy John’s. A contaminated lot of seeds used for sprouting was suspected.
  • 2012 multistate E. coli O26 outbreak, alfalfa sprouts; 29 sickened, 7 hospitalized
    A total of 29 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O26 were reported from 11 states, including: Alabama with 1, Arkansas 1, Iowa 5, Kansas 2, Michigan 10, Missouri 3, Ohio 3, Pennsylvania 1, Washington 1, Wisconsin 1, and West Virginia 1. Traceback information identified a common lot of clover seeds used to grow clover sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurant locations where ill people ate.
  • 2010 Salmonella outbreak, clover sprouts; 7 sickened
    Sprouters Northwest of Kent, WA, issued a product recall after the company’s clover sprouts had been implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella Newport in Oregon and Washington. At least some of the outbreak cases had consumed clover sprouts while at a Jimmy John’s restaurant. Concurrent with this outbreak, a separate Salmonella outbreak from Salmonella serotype I4,[5],12,i-  involving alfalfa sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants was under investigation.
  • 2010 multistate Salmonella outbreak, alfalfa sprouts; 140 sickened
    On Dec. 17, 2010, the Illinois Department of Health announced that an investigation was underway into an outbreak of Salmonella serotype I4,[5],12,i-. Sprouts were removed from Jimmy John’s restaurant menus due to evidence collected.  A link was established between eating Tiny Greens brand alfalfa sprouts and spicy sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant outlets and illness.
  • 2009 Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, alfalfa sprouts; 256 Sickened
    Health officials found alfalfa sprout consumption to be significantly related to the cases of salmonellosis.  Many of the outbreak illnesses were traced to consumers having eating sprouts at Jimmy John’s. Contaminated seed sold to sprout growers nationwide was ultimately considered to be the cause of the outbreak.
  • 2008 Colorado E. coli outbreak, alfalfa sprouts and iceberg lettuce; 28 sickened
    Several University of Colorado students from one sorority became ill with symptoms of bloody diarrhea and cramping. Additional illnesses were reported and E. coli O157: NM(H) was determined to be the cause. Consumption of alfalfa sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants was identified as a risk factor for illness among the outbreak victims.

For a full review of these outbreak investigations, see the Food Safety News report.

Remember, raw sprouted seeds can not be decontaminated except by cooking. Help keep yourself and your family healthy by making safe food choices. Barb