Feb 21, 2012
Contaminated sprouts: Jimmy John’s founder says inconsistent supply prompted decision to remove

While customers clamor for sprouts on the Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches Facebook page, the company says the reason it dropped the little shoots was because it can’t get a consistent supply.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 12 people were infected with E. coli after eating raw clover sprouts on sandwiches from Jimmy John’s restaurants in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Wisconsin. Two were hospitalized. One has just filed suit against the company.

The CDC and FDA are still investigating, but through tracing, have identified a common lot of clover seeds grown in two separate sprouting facilities and served at the Jimmy John’s locations where those who became ill ate. On Feb. 10, the seed supplier initiated notification to sprouting facilities that received the same lot of seed to stop using it, according to the CDC. Agencies were also identifying other locations that may have sold clover sprouts grown from the same seed lot.

Meanwhile, the CDC reports that preliminary investigations indicate eating the raw clover sprouts at the Jimmy John’s restaurants is the likely cause of the outbreak.

A Jimmy John’s franchise owner in Kirksville, Mo., said in published reports that he received an email last Thursday from founder Jimmy John Liautaud ordering all franchise locations to remove raw clover sprouts from their menus permanently. In recent facebook posts, Liautaud responds to customers’ questions and demands for sprouts to be returned to the menu by saying, “I will only serve the best of the best. Sprouts were inconsistent and inconsistency does not equal the best.”

Liautaud tells Facebook fans to try cucumbers, or other veggies, “until I find another solution,” which could be snowpea shoots. He’s currently testing them in Champaign, Ill.

Jimmy John’s had previously used alfalfa sprouts on its sandwiches, but switched to the clover variety after a salmonella outbreak in 2010.

The Texas-based Jason’s Deli restaurant chain recently announced that it’s dropping sprouts from its menu. Citing recent multi-state oubreaks of “serious health issues associated with sprouts,” Wisconsin-based Erbert and Gerbert’s Sandwich Shops also just announced a decision to remove sprouts in all 53 of its locations.


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