Veggies served by sandwich chain Jimmy John's have been linked to five outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella over the past seven years, affecting consumers in at least 17 states, the FDA said Tuesday. The most recent outbreak saw 22 people in Iowa sickened with E.coli in late 2019. All of the 20 people interviewed said they'd eaten at Jimmy John's. The chain "engaged in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers," reads a warning letter sent to the company. Jimmy John's was told to respond with "the specific things you are doing to address this violation" within 15 days or face enforcement action "including seizure and/or injunction." A similar letter was sent to Iowa-based Sprouts Unlimited Wholesale Foods, a Jimmy John's supplier, reports USA Today.
Jimmy John's president James North says sprouts have been removed from all 2,800 locations in 43 states "out of an abundance of caution" rather than "any known, immediate threat," per CNN. "Food safety is our top priority," he adds. But in a Tuesday release, FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas said Jimmy John's "has not demonstrated implementation of long-term sustainable corrections to its supply chain to assure the safety of ingredients." Ten people in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin—eight of whom had eaten Jimmy John's sprouts—were infected with salmonella in February 2018. The chain was also implicated in three E.coli outbreaks affecting 56 people across various states from 2012 to 2014, with most reporting to have eaten sprouts. Cucumbers were cited in a 2013 E.coli outbreak that sickened eight people in Colorado. (Read more Jimmy John's stories.)