FDA sent “Warning Letter” to Jimmy John’s after repeated outbreaks linked to sprouts
Salt Lake City, Utah., A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Travis Knorr against Jimmy John’s Restaurant in the Third Judicial District Court in Salt Lake County, Utah. Mr. Knorr is represented by Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, and Lance Andrew, P.C., a well-respected, local Salt Lake City law firm. Case filing number 200902468.
The CDC, public health officials and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O103 infections linked to clover sprouts. 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).
Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence indicate that clover sprouts are the source of this outbreak. Fifty-eight percent reported eating sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant. Jimmy John’s reported that all of their restaurants stopped serving clover sprouts on February 24, 2020. The FDA identified the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 in samples of Chicago Indoor Garden products that contained sprouts. On March 16, 2020, Chicago Indoor Garden recalled all products containing clover sprouts. The FDA traceback investigation has shown that the 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.
On February 21, 2020, Travis ordered a Billy Club sandwich (“the Sandwich”) from the Jimmy John’s located at 13893 Bangerter Parkway in Draper, Utah. The Sandwich was delivered to his work where he subsequently consumed the Jimmy John’s sandwich, which included sprouts. Several days later on February 26, 2020, Travis began to experience symptoms of E. coli, including abdominal cramping and diarrhea. His symptoms eventually grew in severity to the point that he had to leave work early on February 27.
Travis visited his family physician on March 2 as his symptoms had persisted. His doctor prescribed an antibiotic, and also sent him home with a stool sample kit to be returned for further analysis. On March 6, 2020, Travis’s physician notified him that his stool sample had tested positive for E. coli. After learning of this diagnosis, Travis went to Mountain Point Medical Center emergency room where bloodwork revealed that he was suffering from acute kidney failure. He was immediately admitted on March 8, 2020 for treatment and additional testing until March 10. That same day, Travis was contacted by the Utah County Health Department confirming his exposure to E. coli O103.
“Jimmy John’s has had a decades-long problem with sickening customers with bacteria-tainted sprouts,” said William Marler, managing partner at Marler Clark. “In the past Jimmy John’s would stop selling sprouts after an outbreak, only to start up again later. The time has come to put the health of its customers first,” added Marler
The FDA recently sent a warning letter to Jimmy John’s:
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local partners, have collaboratively investigated several outbreaks linked to Jimmy John’s restaurants. In this letter we detail evidence from five outbreaks, including the most recent outbreak in the state of Iowa during December 2019 of human infections with Escherichia coli O103. The evidence demonstrates that your corporation, through your franchised Jimmy John’s restaurants, engaged in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers.” See full letter here.
Jimmy John’s sprout related recalls in the past 12 years:
- Multistate Salmonella Outbreak, Jimmy John’s Restaurants Sprouts 2018
8 Sickened – 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.
- 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). 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. 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 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 Marler Clark – The Food Safety Law Firm
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.