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Sprouters Northwest Jimmy John's Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits - Washington, Oregon (2011)

On January 3, 2011 the Oregon Health Authority issued a News Release warning consumers of a Salmonella Newport risk and recall related to clover sprouts produced by Sprouters Northwest, Inc. of Kent, Washington. Health officials linked at least six people to the outbreak who consumed sprouts in December 2010; two in Oregon and four in Washington.

Sprouters Northwest distributed its products to merchants such as Jimmy John’s, as well as to grocery stores. After discovering the outbreak, the Oregon Public Health Division warned consumers against consuming Clover, Clover & Onion, Spicy Sprouts and Deli Sprouts produced by Sprouters Northwest.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted an on-site inspection of the Sprouters Northwest facility from January 3, 2011 through January 21, 2011 noting various instances of health and sanitation violation including the following:

• Failure to take necessary precautions to protect against contamination of food and food contact surfaces with microorganisms and foreign substances. Listeria monocytogenes was found on the surface of a stainless steel table in the packing room, according to the report. The raw sprouts were stored in unlined plastic crates so the sprouts at the bottom were in contact with pallets and other totes, which previously had been in contact with the floor.

• Failure to clean food-contact surfaces as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food. Food debris and residue was found in the hard-to-clean areas in and around the conveyor belt and sprouts that passed along and got briefly stuck in these areas could fall back into the rinse tank. Inspectors said it appeared that equipment and fixtures in the seed disinfection room were not cleaned between use.

• Effective measures are not being taken to protect against contamination of food on the premises by pests. Inspectors said gaps at the bottom of a door and along the roof line could allow pests access to the facility. They said they found rodent excreta pellets in the warehouse and noted that the processing room was accessible from the warehouse.

• Failure to maintain buildings and physical facilities in repair sufficient to prevent food from becoming adulterated. Specifically, inspectors said that an abrupt stream of water followed by intermittent drips was observed falling from the ceiling in the warehouse. The water fell onto a sheet of cardboard that covered a pallet of plastic packaging material used to package the mung bean sprouts.

• Failure to hold raw materials in bulk or suitable containers so as to protect against contamination.

On January 11, 2011 Marler Clark filed a Salmonella lawsuit on behalf of a Washington woman who was sickened after consuming Sprouters Northwest clover sprouts purchased from a local grocery store. The lawsuit has since been successfully resolved.

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