The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have announced the investigation of another multistate Salmonella outbreak. This time, the outbreak has been linked to raw sprouts served at the popular restaurant chain Jimmy John’s.
As of January 18, 2018, 8 individuals from 3 states were reported to be infected with Salmonella Montevideo, according to the CDC. The states in question? Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, with the Wisconsin-Illinois region appearing to be the focal point of the outbreak, according to iwaspoisoned.com, a crowdsourcing site that encourages users to report when they have food poisoning in an effort to protect others from falling ill.
In the interview leg of the investigation, it came to light that 7 out of 8 of the individuals who fell ill reported eating at Jimmy John’s restaurants in several locations. Of the 7 individuals who reported eating at these establishments, 100% reported eating raw sprouts on a sandwich from Illinois and Wisconsin locations. Furthermore, 2 of the infected individuals reportedly ate at the same location in Wisconsin.
On January 19, 2018, Jimmy John’s announced that it had directed all its locations chain-wide to temporarily stop serving sprouts.
This is not the first time that sprouts have been identified as the source of an infectious disease outbreak, and unfortunately, this is not the first time that contaminated sprouts have been served at Jimmy John’s. According to Food Safety News, there have been 5 outbreaks over the past 9 years linked with contaminated sprouts served at Jimmy John’s:
- A Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak in 2009 linked with alfalfa sprouts; 256 cases
- A multistate Salmonella outbreak in 2010 linked with alfalfa sprouts; 140 cases
- A Salmonella outbreak in 2010 linked with clover sprouts; 7 cases
- A multistate E. coli O26 outbreak in 2012 linked with alfalfa sprouts; 29 cases
- A multistate E. coli O121 outbreak in 2014 linked with alfalfa sprouts; 19 cases
Sprouts continue to be a public health concern; in fact, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, Mike Doyle, is quoted as saying “I consider sprouts to be among the most risky foods sold at retail.”
In February 2016, alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms of Inman, Kansas, were the source of 1 multistate outbreak of Salmonella Muenchen. Since 1996, at least 30 sprout-related food-borne outbreaks have been reported, according to Foodsafety.gov.
“In outbreaks associated with sprouts, the seed is typically the source of the bacteria,” according to Foodsafety.gov. “There are a number of approved techniques to kill harmful bacteria that may be present on seeds and even tests for seeds during sprouting. But, no treatment is guaranteed to eliminate all harmful bacteria.”
The investigation is ongoing, but the CDC recommends that consumers avoid eating any raw sprouts served at Jimmy John's locations in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Sprouts can sometimes be a “stealth ingredient,” served on salads, sandwiches, or wraps, at food establishments, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, sometimes without any indication. Children, older adults, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals should be cognizant of this when eating out and should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind.
Most individuals who are infected with Salmonella tend to present with symptoms 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria, according to the CDC. Salmonella infections usually resolve on their own within 1 week with a treatment of oral fluids. More severe cases may require intravenous rehydration. Antibiotic treatment should only be considered in those patients with serious illness, “such as severe diarrhea, high fever, bloodstream infection, or condition requiring hospitalization,” according to the CDC.
Feature Picture Source: Debs (ò‿ó)♪ / flickr / Creative Commons.