Carnage of the sprouts: Jimmy John’s and lessons from Germany

Those Jimmy John’s clover sprouts that have sickened at least 12 people in the Midwest with E. coli O26 may have been grown on a farm in Kansas.

I can’t wait to find out who the third-party auditor was.

Missouri’s News-Leader reports the restaurants in Springfield had obtained the sprouts from a farm in Kansas, but neither the restaurants or the farm appeared to be the source of the contamination.

But the restaurant chose to sell raw sprouts.

John Hershberger, the owner of Sweetwater Farms in Inman, Kansas, said federal investigators have not conclusively linked the seeds to the outbreak. He said an investigator from the U.S. Department of Food and Drug Administration was at his farm last week but didn’t find any contamination at the farm.

“They don’t know that for a fact,” Hershberger said of a possible link to the seeds.

Hershberger said he had voluntarily withdrawn clover sprouts from the market.

A paper in Arkansas, home to one of the illnesses, said, “In most sprout outbreaks the restaurant is not to blame for the contamination itself. Contamination usually happens when the seeds are grown or harvested and is often impossible to wash off.”

It’s true sprouts are often contaminated at the seed level but absolute nonsense that whoever serves those raw sprouts on sandwiches isn’t responsible, especially when raw sprouts have been the source of four previous outbreaks since 2008 at the same sandwich chain – Jimmy John’s.

Can food service learn anything from past sprout outbreaks – and there have been a lot, see

Eurosurveillance, reported yesterday that a bunch of experts who gathered in Nov. 2011 concluded the outbreak showed the landscape of foodborne infections is in flux, that multi-national outbreaks are a reality and that they can occur everywhere, irrespective of food safety standards.

Nothing was said about whether people should eat raw sprouts or even if raw sprouts were a high-risk food.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Policy and tagged , , , , by Douglas Powell. Bookmark the permalink.

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