Sprouts served at Jimmy John’s have been linked to another, new food poisoning outbreak. Jimmy John’s is based in Illinois.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 cases of E. coli poisoning have been reported in five states—Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin—and linked to raw clover sprouts consumed at Jimmy John’s restaurants, said The Associated Press (AP). Illnesses were reported from December 25 and January 15; two people required hospitalization, said the AP.
This outbreak follows, said the AP, another sprout outbreak last year involving raw alfalfa sprouts from one of Jimmy John’s suppliers. That outbreak caused 140 Salmonella poisoning illnesses. Sprouts from Jimmy John’s suppliers were also linked to a 2009 Salmonella poisoning outbreak that impacted several Midwestern states and were suspected in a 2008 E. coli poisoning outbreak in Boulder, Colorado, said the AP. Following last year’s Salmonella poisoning outbreak, Jimmy John’s, which would not comment on the current outbreak, said it would switch fro alfalfa to clover sprouts, saying that clover sprouts were easier to clean, said the AP.
The AP also pointed out that a 1996 outbreak in Japan sickened thousands with E. coli and fenugreek sprout seeds from Egypt are believed responsible for a large E. coli outbreak in Europe last year that led to the death of 50 people. Raw sprouts are among the most frequent culprits in food borne illness outbreaks, said the AP. The government suggests that the very young, the elderly, those who are pregnant, and people with compromised immune systems avoid sprout consumptions. Sprouts that are fully cooked are considered safe to eat, said the AP.
As we’ve long written, because sprouts are often eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria, washing sprouts does not necessarily remove the bacteria that grows within the sprouts and cannot be washed away. Over the past 15 years, at least 30 outbreaks of food poisoning have been linked to eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We’ve also long explained that sprouts present a unique food poisoning challenge in that they can become tainted prior to harvesting, when growing. And, 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.
Contamination with the Salmonella pathogen can cause salmonellosis, which can lead to serious consequences, most especially in the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites, and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that people suffering from salmonellosis usually experience symptoms beginning 12 – 72 hours after becoming contaminated. Symptoms may include fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea and usually last 4 – 7 days. Most people recover without antibiotic treatment; however, diarrhea can be very severe, and hospitalization may be required. Also, some strains have become drug resistant, which means that treatment options are minimized, treatment becomes significantly more difficult, and patients cannot always be brought back to their presickness state.
E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces. While some strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, deadly, and toxin producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli, which may cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and bloody stool; in the most severe cases, this infection can lead to kidney failure and death. Symptoms generally appear three to four days after exposure, but can take as long as nine days to manifest. The infection sometimes causes hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious disease in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. Infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.