‘Sprouts aren’t necessary for Jimmy John’s to rock;’ chain permanently pulls sprouts from menu?

Kirksville, Missouri, is home of Truman State University where Amy completed her undergraduate degree with bad 1980s hair and clothing (even though it was the 1990s), and where we trekked in March 2010 so French scholar Dr. Hubbell could give an invited seminar to her peers and reminisce.

Kirksville seems like a typical Midwest college town, which means the students probably like their Jimmy John’s sandwiches.

Jason Hunsicker of the Kirksville Daily Express reports that Jimmy John’s is making a permanent menu change to put an end to the restaurant’s connection to E. coli outbreaks from raw clover sprouts.

Will Aubuchon, owner and general manager of the Kirksville Jimmy John’s, said an email was sent by "Jimmy himself" late Thursday night ordering all franchise locations to permanently remove raw clover sprouts from their menus.

It’s unclear whether the move applies to all raw sprouts or just clover (and the previously banned alfalfa) sprouts.

The move was made in the wake of an E. coli O26 outbreak that has sickened 12 people in five states, including Missouri. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a release stating an investigation into the outbreak determined the individuals were likely infected from raw clover sprouts they consumed at Jimmy John’s restaurants.

The outbreak was not tied to the Kirksville restaurant and is not a direct result of conditions at any Jimmy John’s restaurants, but instead problems with the company’s supplier of the raw clover sprouts.

"Jimmy decided he was tired of the negative press from it and he thinks sprouts aren’t necessary for Jimmy John’s to rock," Aubuchon said.

Aubuchon said he’s been working with Jimmy John’s for 12 years and it is "kind of weird" to not have sprouts on the menu. He said regular Kirksville customers who ordered sprouts had read recent news reports and temporarily stopped adding the item to their sandwiches.

Now, however, the move will be permanent. Aubuchon expects some customers to be upset, but said he will encourage them to try alternative options like cucumbers. He also anticipates Jimmy John’s will work to add a new vegetable offering to its menus.

Jimmy John’s spokeswoman Mary Trader said on Thursday that the company is not releasing a statement at this time.

With five sprout-related outbreaks since 2008 at Jimmy John’s alone, they should be better at this public relations thing. A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/sprouts-associated-outbreaks.

And if sprouts are gone from JJ’s menus, Jimmy may want to think about microbial food safety in general, those deli meats, lettuce and tomatoes. There have been lots of outbreaks and lots of sick people. Maybe this time it won’t have to happen in a Jimmy John’s outlet for the company to reassess what should be on the menu and what is required of suppliers to do business with Jimmy John’s.