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Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued alerts about Jimmy John’s sprouts. Getty Images
  • Jimmy John’s has pulled clover sprouts from the menu at its 2,800 restaurants in the United States.
  • The move came after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent the company a warning letter after 14 people in 5 states became ill with E. coli and Salmonella infections after eating at Jimmy John’s restaurants.
  • The FDA reported that the company has had a history of foodborne bacterial contamination since 2012.

If you’re a regular at Jimmy John’s, don’t expect any sprouts on your sandwich the next time you order.

If you’ve eaten any in the past week, you might want to call your doctor if you’re not feeling well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a food safety alert after 14 people in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, and Utah became sick after eating at Jimmy John’s restaurants in those states.

So far, no hospitalizations or deaths have been reported, but investigators are working to trace the source of the clover sprouts to determine where else they could have been sold and consumed.

“We are advising consumers who may have recently eaten sprouts at Jimmy John’s to monitor for symptoms of an E. coli infection and consumers should contact their health care provider if they have experienced common foodborne illness symptoms,” Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response with the FDA, said in a statement.

In response, the sandwich chain pulled all clover sprouts from its nearly 2,800 Jimmy John’s restaurants nationwide on Feb. 24.

This comes after the FDA sent the company a warning letter about outbreaks over the past 8 years where customers were sickened after eating food from Jimmy John’s.

In the letter, William R. Weissinger, a program division director of the FDA’s Office of Human and Animal Foods, wrote that Jimmy John’s has “engaged in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce,” including sprouts and cucumbers that caused several foodborne illness outbreaks dating as far back as 2012.

The infecting culprits were E. coli and Salmonella, two of the most common bacteria responsible for foodborne illnesses.

The bacteria typically cause cramps, diarrhea — usually with blood — and a fever, which most healthy adults recover from in about a week.

But in some cases, those infections can turn into kidney failure or cause death. Those at particular risk include young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, says deli meats, eggs, chicken, and vegetables such as tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and others are particularly notable for carrying harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.

“These are both bacteria that are highly prevalent in animals, and it is very easy for contamination to occur,” Adalja told Healthline.

In its letter to Jimmy John’s, the FDA listed a series of foodborne outbreaks that have occurred at various restaurant locations, not including the latest outbreak in five states.

In April 2012, 29 people in 11 states were infected with E. coli, most of them after eating sprouts at one of six Jimmy John’s locations.

The next series of infections occurred in October 2013, when eight people from Colorado were infected with E. coli. That time, it was raw cucumbers in Jimmy John’s sandwiches that were the culprits.

Then, in August 2014, 19 people in Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Utah, California, and Washington were sickened with E. coli. Again, tainted sprouts were traced back to be the bearers of the bacteria.

Another sprouts-based outbreak occurred in early 2018 when 10 people were infected with Salmonella in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Eight of these 10 people reported eating raw sprouts on sandwiches at Jimmy John’s restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin the week before they became sick. One person reported eating raw sprouts from a grocery store in Minnesota.

It was then reported in January that 22 Iowans were infected with E. coli, and the majority of those people reported eating sprouts at one or more of 15 Jimmy John’s restaurants in the state.

These recurring outbreaks have federal regulators concerned about what Jimmy John’s is doing to prevent them.

Officials say Jimmy John’s has not “provided FDA with any information demonstrating long-term, sustainable corrections have been implemented throughout your organization to prevent this violation from recurring in the future.”

The FDA’s letter to Jimmy John’s president, James North, states the restaurant chain should “take prompt action to correct all violations noted in this letter.”

“It is your responsibility to ensure your firm complies with all requirements of federal law and implementing regulations,” the letter states.

Three days after the FDA letter, Jimmy John’s pulled all sprouts from its menu.

Still, the CDC recommends that anyone who may have any Jimmy John’s leftovers that contain sprouts should immediately throw them in the trash.

The Jimmy John’s outbreaks highlight how little control consumers can have over their safety when eating outside of their home.

That can be especially tough when people are trying to incorporate more fresh, uncooked vegetables into their diets.

“It’s very hard to completely eliminate risk, especially when you are not the one preparing the food,” Adalja said. “One tip is to always eat meat that is cooked thoroughly and avoid unpasteurized products.”