Feb 15, 2012 8:43 PM by Matt Stafford
WASHINGTON (AP) - Raw sprouts from the sandwich chain Jimmy John's have been linked to an outbreak of foodborne illness - again.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that 12 cases of E. coli poisoning in five states are linked to raw clover sprouts eaten at Jimmy John's restaurants. The outbreak comes a year after raw sprouts from one of the chain's suppliers were linked to 140 salmonella illnesses. Sprouts from the chain were also linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak in several Midwestern states and were suspected in an E. coli outbreak in Boulder, Colo. in 2008.
Illinois-based Jimmy John's declined to comment on the outbreak. After the salmonella outbreak a year ago, the company said it would switch from using alfalfa sprouts to using clover sprouts because they are easier to clean. But federal regulators warn against eating all sprouts, which are one of the most frequent perpetrators of foodborne illness.
Though they are often touted as a health food, sprouts need warm and humid conditions to grow, encouraging bacterial growth. Many restaurants have stopped serving them after multiple outbreaks, and the government recommends that the very young, elderly, pregnant and others with compromised immune systems stay away from raw sprouts completely. Cooked sprouts are safe to eat.
According to the CDC, there have been at least 30 outbreaks associated with raw or lightly cooked sprouts in the United States in the last 15 years and even more around the world, including a 1996 outbreak in Japan that sickened thousands of people with E. coli. Fenugreek sprout seeds from Egypt are thought to have caused a major outbreak of E. coli poisoning in Europe last year that killed more than 50 people.
Illnesses in the current outbreak were reported in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Wisconsin. The illnesses occurred between Dec. 25 and Jan. 15 and two of the victims were hospitalized.