Jimmy John’s food safety challenged, changing to clover sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts grown in Illinois have sickened at least 112 people in 18 states with salmonella since Nov. 2010, and many of those sick ate the sprouts on Jimmy John’s sandwiches.

On Jan. 3, 2011, in a separate outbreak, health officials reported fingering clover sprouts produced by Sprouters Northwest, Inc. of Kent, Wash. as the source of a separate salmonella outbreak that has sickened three in Oregon and four in Washington. Once again, the vehicle in at least some of the illnesses was Jimmy John’s sandwiches with sprouts.

William E. Keene, a senior epidemiologist at Oregon Public Health Division said,

“This is at least the 13th sprout-caused outbreak that has sickened Oregonians since 1995, when we first started warning consumers about the risks of eating sprouts. Anyone concerned about foodborne disease should consider this before eating sprouts. … This is a food to avoid. If you’re concerned about getting sick, I wouldn’t eat sprouts."

Yesterday, John Liautaud, the owner of the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop chain, said his restaurants will be replacing alfalfa sprouts with easier-cleaned clover sprouts, effective immediately.

Mr. ‘I-have-a-sign-on-my-head-that-says-sue-me’ Liautaud said he was making the change to clover sprouts because they are easier to clean, than alfalfa sprouts, and that to the best of his knowledge, not one case of salmonella carried by alfalfa sprouts can be traced to one of his restaurants.

Lawyers, take your places.

The original table of North American raw sprout-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/sprout-associated-outbreaks-north-america-1990-2009.