Salmonella-in-sprouts sick climbs to 125, water sample positive

As soon as Tiny Greens of Illinois was fingered as the source of the suspect sprouts in a salmonella outbreak largely linked to Jimmy John’s sandwiches, an astute public health-type e-mailed me and said, “check out their water supply.”

I’m not sure what water is being used where and for what, but according to the Tiny Greens website, they recycle all water.

“At Tiny Greens, we have one of the only complete systems that we are aware of to clean, improve, and re-use our water. The natural biological processes that are continually present in the undisturbed eco-systems around us are utilized in a controlled environment to clean and re-cycle our water.”

Here’s what looks like the important point:

“Next, the middle layer of clarified wastewater liquid flows out of the septic tank into a sand filter. The sand filter uses outside air, thus further treating the water aerobically (using bacteria requiring oxygen). Sand filters provide a high level of treatment and normally produce effluent that tests 99.9% bacteria and virus-free. … Sand filters are the preferred treatment method at Tiny Greens and their nutrient-rich, disinfected water can be utilized as free fertilizing water for growing plants."

99.9 per cent may sound impressive, but may also mean crap (literally).

On Friday, CDC announced that from Nov. 1, 2010, through Jan. 11, 2011, 125 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella serotype I 4,[5],12:i:-, whose illnesses began since November 1, have been reported from 22 states and the District of Columbia. Results of the investigation indicate a link to eating Tiny Greens Alfalfa Sprouts or Spicy Sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant outlets.

Testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of one environmental (water run-off) sample identified Salmonella serotype I 4,[5],12:i:- that is indistinguishable from the outbreak strain.

Tiny Greens’ owner Bill Bagby criticized testing by the FDA and the Illinois Department of Public Health as not being comprehensive enough.

“The [FDA statement] is misleading. That burns me up! … I learn something from every single inspector that comes here. Looking at all of this in a positive way, this is a chance for us to do something better.”

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time