Amid Salmonella Outbreak, Illinois Jimmy John’s Restaurants Pull Alfalfa Sprouts

Jimmy John’s has asked franchisees in Illinois to pull alfalfa sprouts from their menu, after some <"">Salmonella illnesses were traced to sprouts served at some of the chains restaurants there. The letter, from Jimmy John Liautaud, characterized the removal of alfalfa sprouts as “precautionary.”

“Approximately 88 people have gotten ill in 15 states,” Liautaud wrote, according to a report from NBC Chicago. “Of those, 40 have been interviewed. Of those 40, 28 have eaten at Jimmy John’s. Of those 28, 25 have eaten sprouts.”

Jimmy John’s restaurants were first implicated in the outbreak by the Illinois Department of Public Health. As we reported earlier this week, the department said 46 cases of the same Salmonella strain had been discovered in 10 Illinois counties since November 1.

The reports of illnesses in other states indicate that the cases associated with Jimmy John’s might only be a small part of a much wider Salmonella outbreak.

“We are working closely with the state and they are doing a darn good job in helping find the source,” said Liautaud. “Again, no source has been found yet. This is a precautionary measure.”

According to the letter, testing of the chain’s main sprout supplier has come up negative for Salmonella. Jimmy John’s restaurants that have undergone testing have so far tested negative for the bacteria.

Symptoms of Salmonellosis (illness caused by Salmonella bacteria) include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or stomach cramps. Illness usually develops within six to 72 hours after being exposed to Salmonella bacteria and generally lasts three to seven days. Some individuals who are infected may have no symptoms at all but may still transmit the Salmonella bacteria to others. The spread of Salmonella from person to person may be avoided by careful hand washing with soap and water, particularly after using the restroom.

As we’ve reported in the past, sprouts present a unique food poisoning challenge in that they can become tainted prior to harvesting, when growing. The conditions required for sprout growing are optimal for growing pathogens: Bacteria need the right temperature, nutrients, and water and sprouts grow in watery, warm environments, ideal for rapid bacterial growth. Because sprouts are often eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria, washing sprouts does not necessarily remove bacteria because bacteria grow within the sprouts and cannot be washed away.

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