Jimmy Johns get’s a warning letter from FDA

This warning letter from FDA to Jimmy John’s about continuous use of sprouts is unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. 5 outbreaks, at least 88 illnesses, all linked to sprouts, should lead to something different. The old approach doesn’t seem to be working.

Here’s my favorite part: “In May 2012, a meeting was held with FDA at your request. During that meeting, you expressed that you would offer only clover sprouts, and to only source clover sprouts from [redacted] suppliers.

Since that corrective action, your firm has been implicated in three additional sprout-related outbreaks. Documents from traceback investigations conducted by FDA, states and local partners demonstrate that in addition to [redacted] sprouts, Jimmy John’s restaurants are using multiple other sources of sprouts.”

Going to other suppliers, hell keeping sprouts on the menu and then taunting with sassy posters (Skull. Crossbones. Eat at your own risk. Nudge. Nudge.), was a brazen move by JJ’s. and not really in line with what their CEO James North said following one of those outbreaks: “Food safety and the welfare of our customers are our top priorities and not negotiable in our business.”

Yesterday North sent a statement to USA Today after receiving the warning letter that said the sprouts have been removed from restaurants. “This removal was out of an abundance of caution and was not initiated by any known, immediate threat,” North said.

Abundance of caution is the stupidest term in food safety risk communication.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.