As of March 17, 2020, 39 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 have been reported from six states – Florida (1), Illinois (6), Iowa (3), Missouri (1), Texas (1) and Utah (27).
Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 6, 2020, to March 2, 2020. Ill people range in age from 1 to 79 years, with a median age of 28. Fifty-three percent of ill people are female. Two people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence indicate that clover sprouts are the source of this outbreak.
State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures they had in the week before their illness started. Sixteen (59%) of 27 people interviewed reported eating sprouts. This percentage is significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 8% reported eating sprouts in the week before they were interviewed. Fourteen (58%) of 24 people interviewed reported eating sprouts at a Jimmy John’s restaurant.
Jimmy John’s LLC reported that all of their restaurants stopped serving clover sprouts on February 24, 2020. Clover sprouts should no longer be available at Jimmy John’s restaurants.
FDA identified the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 in samples of Chicago Indoor Garden products that contain sprouts. On March 16, 2020, Chicago Indoor Garden recalled all products containing red clover sprouts.
FDA’s traceback investigation has shown that a common seed lot was used to grow the sprouts recalled by Chicago Indoor Garden and the sprouts that were served at Jimmy John’s locations where people sickened in the current outbreak reported eating. The same seed lot was also used to grow sprouts linked to an outbreak of the same strain of E. coli O103 infections in 2019.
Jimmy John’s sprout related recalls in the past 12 years
- Multistate Salmonella Outbreak, Jimmy John’s Restaurants Sprouts 2018
As of January 18, 2018, eight people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo had been reported from Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Illnesses started on dates ranging from December 20, 2017, to January 3, 2018. Ill people ranged in age from 26 to 50, with a median age of 34. All 8 were female. No hospitalizations and no deaths were reported. Evidence indicated that raw sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants were a likely source of outbreak.
Federal, state, and local health and regulatory officials conducted traceback investigations from the six Jimmy John’s locations where ill people ate raw sprouts.
- Multistate E. coli O121 Outbreak, Jimmy John’s Restaurants Alfalfa Sprouts 2014
19 Sickened – Public health officials in California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Utah and Washington collaborated with their federal partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O121 that occurred in May 2014. A total of 19 people with the outbreak strain, identified by the CDC’s PulseNet PFGE Pattern Identification Numbers EXKX01.0011/EXKA26.0001, were reported. Among people for whom information was available, dates of illness onset ranged from May 1, 2014, to May 20, 2014. Ill people ranged from 11 years to 52 years old. Seven of 16 victims for whom information was available were hospitalized. None of the confirmed patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome and no deaths were reported.
Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by public health officials implicated raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts LLC of Hayden, Idaho as the likely source of this outbreak. Thirteen (81%) of 16 ill people reported eating raw clover sprouts in the week before becoming ill. Ill people in Washington and Idaho reported eating sprouts in sandwiches at several local food establishments including several Jimmy John’s locations, the Pita Pit, and Daanen’s Deli.
As part of the investigation the FDA performed a traceback analysis and determined that Evergreen Fresh Sprouts supplied sprouts to seven restaurants with outbreak associated cases. This analysis used documents collected directly from the distributors and the grower, Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, as well as documents collected by the states from the points of service.
The FDA conducted several inspections at the Evergreen Fresh Sprouts facility in May and June. During the inspections FDA investigators observed a number of unsanitary conditions, including condensate and irrigation water dripping from rusty valves, a rusty and corroded watering system in the mung bean room, tennis rackets were being used to scoop mung bean sprouts that had scratches, chips and frayed plastic; a pitchfork used to transfer mung bean sprouts had corroded metal, and a squeegee used to agitate mung bean sprouts inside a soak vat that had visible corroded metal and non-treated wood.
On June 26, 2014, the FDA and CDC held a meeting with the owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to advise the firm of FDA’s concerns that the seed lot used to row clover sprouts linked to this outbreak might be contaminated and to encourage Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to discontinue using that seed lot. The owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts agreed to stop using the suspect lot of seeds.
- Multistate E. coli O26 Outbreak, Jimmy John’s Restaurants Alfalfa Sprouts 2012
29 Sickened – A total of 29 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O26 were reported from 11 states, including: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), Iowa (5), Kansas (2), Michigan (10), Missouri (3), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (1), Washington (1), Wisconsin (1), and West Virginia (1).
Of the 27 ill people with available information, 23 (85%) reported consuming sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants in the seven days preceding illness. Among 29 ill people, illness onset dates ranged from December 25, 2011, to March 3, 2012. Ill people ranged in age from 9 years to 57 years old, with a median age of 26 years; 89% of The patients were female. Among the 29 ill persons, seven (24%) were hospitalized. None developed HUS, and no deaths were reported.
Preliminary traceback information identified a common lot of clover seeds used to grow clover sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurant locations where ill persons ate. FDA and states conducted a traceback that identified two separate sprouting facilities; both used the same lot of seed to grow clover sprouts served at these Jimmy John’s restaurant locations. On February 10, 2012, the seed supplier initiated a notification process for sprouting facilities that received the implicated lot of clover seed to stop using it.
Results of the epidemiologic and traceback investigations indicated eating raw clover sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants was the likely cause of this outbreak.
- Sprouters Northwest, Jimmy John’s Restaurants Clover Salmonella Sprouts Outbreak 2010
7 Sickened – Sprouters Northwest of Kent, WA, issued a product recall after the company’s clover sprouts had been implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella Newport in Oregon and Washington. At least some of the cases had consumed clover sprouts while at a Jimmy John’s restaurant. Concurrent with this outbreak, a separate outbreak of Salmonella, serotype I 4,5,12,i- ; involving alfalfa sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants was under investigation. The recall of Northwest Sprouters products included: clover; clover and onion; spicy sprouts; and deli sprouts. The Sprouters Northwest products had been sold to grocery stores and wholesale operations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The FDA inspection found serious sanitary violations.
- Multistate Salmonella Outbreak, Tiny Greens Organic Farm, Jimmy John’s Restaurants Alfalfa Sprouts 2010
140 Sickened – On December 17, the Illinois Department of Health announced that an investigation was underway into an outbreak of Salmonella, serotype I4,,12:i:-. Many of the Illinois patients had eaten alfalfa sprouts at various Jimmy John’s restaurants in the Illinois counties of Adams, Champaign, Cook, DuPage, Kankakee, Macon, McHenry, McLean, Peoria, and Will counties. The sprouts were suspected to be the cause of the illnesses. On Dec. 21 that year Jimmy John Liautaud, the owner of the franchised restaurant chain, requested that all franchisees remove all sprouts from the menu as a “precautionary” measure. On Dec. 23, the Centers for Disease Control revealed that outbreak cases had been detected in other states and that the outbreak was linked with eating alfalfa sprouts from a nationwide sandwich chain. On Dec. 26, preliminary results of the investigation indicated a link to eating Tiny Greens’ Alfalfa Sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant outlets. The FDA subsequently advised consumers and restaurants to avoid Tiny Greens Brand Alfalfa Sprouts and Spicy Sprouts produced by Tiny Greens Organic Farm of Urbana, Illinois. The Spicy Sprouts contained alfalfa, radish and clover sprouts. On January 14, 2011, it was revealed that the FDA had isolated Salmonella serotype I4,,12:i:- from a water runoff sample collected from Tiny Greens Organic Farm; the Salmonella isolated was indistinguishable from the outbreak strain. The several FDA inspections of the sprout growing facility revealed factors that likely led to contamination of the sprouts.
- CW Sprouts, Inc., SunSprout Sprouts, “restaurant chain (Chain A),” a.k.a. Jimmy John’s Salmonella Outbreak 2009
256 Sickened – In February, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services officials identified six isolates of Salmonella Saintpaul. Although this is a common strain of Salmonella, during 2008, only three cases had been detected in Nebraska and only four subtypes of this outbreak strain had been identified in 2008 in the entire USA. As additional reports were made, a case control study was conducted; alfalfa sprout consumption was found to be significantly related to illness. The initial tracebacks of the sprouts indicated that although the sprouts had been distributed by various companies, the sprouts from the first cases originated from the same sprouting facility in Omaha, NE. Forty-two of the illnesses beginning on March 15 were attributed to sprout growing facilities in other states; these facilities had obtained seed from the same seed producer, Caudill Seed Company of Kentucky. The implicated seeds had been sold in many states. On April 26, the FDA and CDC recommended that consumers not eat raw alfalfa sprouts, including sprout blends containing alfalfa sprouts. In May, FDA alerted sprout growers and retailers that a seed supplier, Caudill Seed Company of Kentucky, was withdrawing all alfalfa seeds with a specific three-digit prefix. Many of the illnesses occurred at “restaurant chain (Chain A),” according to the CDC, which generally does not identify specific business.
- Jimmy John’s Restaurant Alfalfa Sprouts and Iceberg Lettuce E. coli Outbreak 2008
28 Sickened – Several University of Colorado students from one sorority became ill with symptoms of bloody diarrhea and cramping. Additional illnesses were reported. E. coli O157:NM(H-) was determined to be the cause. Consumption of alfalfa sprouts at the Jimmy John’s Restaurants in Boulder County and Adams County were risk factors for illness. In addition, the environmental investigation identified Boulder Jimmy John’s food handlers who were infected with E. coli and who had worked while ill. The health department investigation found a number of critical food handling violations, including inadequate handwashing. The fourteen isolates from confirmed cases were a genetic match to one another.
About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated products and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.
The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.
People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.
E. coli: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $700 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products. The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s. We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.
If you or a family member became ill with an E. coli infection or HUS after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation.