The Illinois Department of Public Health is investigating a large Salmonella outbreak possibly associated with alfalfa sprouts consumed at Jimmy John’s restaurants.  The outbreak, which has sickened 46 people with the same strain of salmonella, has hit nine Illinois counties, including Will, Cook, Kankakee, McHenry, Adams, Champaign, Mclean, Peoria and Winnebago. 

This is not the first go round for sprouts and salmonella; nor for Jimmy Johns and salmonella; nor for Illinois and big salmonella outbreaks this year.  Not including this outbreak, since 1990, raw or slightly cooked sprouts have caused an estimated 2,308 illnesses, through 38 outbreaks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that sprout-linked outbreaks account for 40 per cent of all food-borne illness associated with produce.

Jimmy Johns has, of course, had its own problems with sprouts and salmonella.  In late-winter 2009, at least 252 people were sickened by Salmonella-contaminated alfalfa sprouts in 14 states.  The sprouts were manufactured from seeds from one supplier in Louisville Kentucky called Caudill Seed.  Many of the victims in the outbreak were sickened by Jimmy Johns sandwiches that contained the contaminated sprouts.

And of course, Illinois is no stranger to large salmonella outbreaks, even just looking back as far as January 1, 2010.  Illinois state health officials traced a widespread Salmonella outbreak at Subway restaurants to one Central Illinois food distributor. The final outbreak report stated that the Illinois Department of Public Health could not identify the exact source of the problem, which led to 109 confirmed cases and another 90-plus probable or suspect cases of the illness between late April and June.  The likely vehicle was a fresh produce item.

And An outbreak of Salmonella sickened patrons of the Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois, in the late spring 2010 as well.  Health officials for Cook County linked at least 37 cases of Salmonella to the club. Of the 37 confirmed cases of Salmonellosis, 8 had to be hospitalized. Another 50 visitors to the Skokie Country Club reported symptoms of Salmonella infection and are under investigation. The strain of Salmonella was identified as enteritidis.