Salmonella Outbreak Prompts Jimmy John’s to Replace Alfalfa Sprouts

After a <"">Salmonella outbreak sickened some of its customers, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches restaurants has decided to take alfalfa sprouts off its menu. Instead, Jimmy John’s will now offer clover sprouts, according to an article on

In December, a Salmonella outbreak possibly tied to Tiny Greens Organic Farm’s alfalfa sprouts sickened at least 112 people in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Half of those infected were from Illinois, where many of those sickened ate sandwiches with sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said. The restaurant voluntarily stopped serving sprouts at their Illinois locations last month.

Jimmy John’s announced the permanent switch to clover sprouts in a January 10 press release: “We are making the switch immediately in our corporate-owned stores and recommending all franchisees make the switch too because we believe it may decrease the chance for contamination,” chain founder Jimmy John Liautaud said in the release.

According to, Liautaud maintained that clover sprout seeds are easier to clean than alfalfa sprouts.

But according to, it’s unclear that switching from one type of sprout to another will offer Jimmy John’s customers any additional protection from food borne illness.

“If Jimmy John’s switches to clover sprouts, we’ll start seeing a bunch of clover sprout outbreaks associated with Jimmy John’s,” William Keene, senior epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division told “The problem is with sprouting, not whether it comes from this kind of seed or that kind of seed.”

Just this month, in fact, Sprouters Northwest, Inc. of Kent, Washington, issued a recall of its clover and clover mix products because of possible Salmonella contamination. According to, those clover sprouts may be linked to an outbreak in Oregon and Washington State. Health officials have confirmed nine cases in the two states; eight reported eating sprouts. Two of the nine said they’d eaten clover sprouts at a Jimmy John’s in Bend, Oregon.

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. Over the past 15 years, at least 30 outbreaks of food poisoning have been associated with eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

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