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E.coli sprouts outbreak linked to Jimmy John’s

(February 16, 2012)—For the fourth time in four years, raw sprouts from sandwich chain Jimmy John's have been linked to a foodborne illness outbreak.

Twelve cases of E. coli poisoning in five states (Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Wisconsin) have been linked to raw clover sprouts eaten at Jimmy John's restaurants, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Associated Press reported.

The illnesses occurred between Dec. 25 and Jan. 15. Two of the victims were hospitalized.

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. 

A traceback 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 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," 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.