Jimmy John’s and sprouts — again

Remember when Jimmy John’s, the sandwich favored by university faculty department meetings and college students across the U.S., sickened hundreds of people across the U.S linked to raw alfalfa sprouts so they switched to raw clover sprouts and made more people sick?

It’s happened again.

Chris Koger of The Packer reported in late Dec. 2019 that Sprouts Unlimited, Marion, Iowa, is recalling clover sprouts, which have been linked to a cluster of E. coli cases under investigation in Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is investigating the link between the outbreak and the product from Sprouts Unlimited, according to a Dec. 27 recall notice from the company.

The sprouts were shipped to Hy-Vee and Fareway Foods stores, and Jimmy John’s restaurants.

The retail packs in the recall are in pint containers with a blue label on the lid, according to Sprouts Unlimited. The Universal Product Code is 7 32684 00013 6 is on the bottom right side of the label.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals told Sprouts Unlimited the sprouts are epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. More tests are being conducted to determine the source, according to the recall notice.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found here.

Failures in sprouts-related risk communication

Food Control.2012. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A.


Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been a recurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.

12 sick; good communication can’t cover lousy management; Clover restaurant’s lapses preceded Salmonella outbreak

When a city inspector went to the Clover restaurant in East Cambridge last Friday, she found spoiled cauliflower, hummus, and various salads coming back from food trucks at improper temperatures, and no one on hand to supervise the kitchen staff.

That inspection, sparked by an outbreak of food poisoning among some of Clover’s customers, led the city to shut the restaurant indefinitely, according to a report provided to the Globe. Deborah Kotz writes the chief clover.food.lb.jul.13executive then decided to close the other three restaurants and 10 food trucks in the popular Clover Food Lab chain, which all are supplied by the East Cambridge kitchen.

Twelve cases of salmonella were reported in June and early this month among patrons of Clover’s various locations in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline.

While the state health department declined to comment, citing its ongoing investigation, Clover CEO Ayr Muir said in an interview that he has received details on half of the people. Those customers had eaten one of two dishes containing pita bread purchased from a supplier, as well as tahini, hummus, and a cucumber tomato salad made by Clover chefs.

Muir acknowledged there were food safety practices with which “we could do a lot better,” but added that he thinks food inspectors frequently note violations at many restaurants. “I think we operate some of the cleanest kitchens in the country,” he said.

Clover has become something of an institution among the health-food set. Its no-frills vegetarian fare attracted a devoted following after it began five years ago with a single food truck near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it grew rapidly. Its website promises locally grown and fresh food — so fresh that they have “no freezers. In the entire company. Not one.”

But Clover has racked up a string of safety lapses, ranging from minor violations such as greasy buildup on equipment, walls, and counters to major infractions such as a failure to provide handwashing facilities to employees in a food truck on Park Street off Boston Common.

Haven’t heard anything about how and where Clover sources its supposedly superior food.

Clover restaurants close in Mass; take proactive stance

There’s an outbreak of Salmonella in Massachusetts. Some may have eaten at Clover restaurants. This is how founder and CEO Ayr Muir responded on Clover’s facebook page; fairly classy, despite spelling Salmonella with one l; and using the we-never-made-anyone-sick-before defense.

“We learned late Friday that there is a Salmonella outbreak in Massachusetts. Some of the confirmed cases ate at Clover over the course imagesof the days leading up to their illness. Of course, the idea that somebody could have become sick eating our food is shocking, and very concerning. The state told me they don’t know yet where the Salmonella is coming from and are currently investigating.

This is something we take very seriously. Clover has never been responsible for any food poisoning or foodborne illness that we know of. That’s because we operate clean and take this sort of thing really really seriously.

My first thought was to stop serving eggs until we learn more. The epidemiologist with the state  helped me understand that Salmonela can come from a product we were serving (e.g., eggs, chicken, etc.) or it can come from an employee who was carrying the disease. We have a strict sickness policy (if you’re sick you need to let us know immediately and not work). And I have faith that our employees are really great people and communicate honestly with us about illness because they know we have their best interest at heart and will not punish them for being sick. But apparently people can carry Salmonela and be asymptomatic.

Right now I really don’t know much. I’ve asked the state to share any details with us as their investigation proceeds. We’ll keep you updated. We’re going to be extra careful and we’re not opening any location until we learn more.

Sorry everybody. We’re looking forward to re-opening when we learn more.

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.

Salmonella and sprouts again – but just a few sickies

Clover and clover mix products from Sprouters Northwest Inc. of Kent, Wash., have been recalled because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. The company reports that a few cases of salmonella might be linked to sprouts.

Is that like saying monkeys might fly out of my butt? Sprouters Northwest does offer this mission statement on its website:

“To provide our customers and the public with the freshest, healthiest, and best tasting sprouts available. We pride ourselves in the quality of our product while strictly adhering to all local, state, and federal regulations and guidelines.”

And only a few will get salmonella.

This is the problem with setting standards with everything. The growers say, “we meet all stringent standards,” without bothering to go above and beyond. Ford may have once said the Pinto met all federal standards.

The recall includes the following products, all with a "best by" date of 1/16/11 and earlier:
—4 oz. (UPC 8 15098 00201 6) and 5 oz. (UPC 0 33383 70235 3) containers of Clover sprouts.
—1-lb. bags of Clover (UPC 0 79566 12351 5), and 2-lb. trays of Clover (UPC 0 79566 12362 1).
—Clover Onion sprouts in 4 oz. (UPC 0 79566 12361 4) and 5 oz. (UPC 0 79566 12361 4) containers.
—Deli sprouts in 4 oz. (UPC 8 79566 12305 4) and 5 oz. (UPC 0 33383 70267 4) containers.
—Spicy sprouts in 4 oz. (UPC 8 15098 00202 3) containers.
—Brocco sandwich sprouts in 4 oz. (UPC 8 15098 00028 9) containers.
For more information: Call the company at 253-872-0577.