02/20/12  Jimmy Johns in Plymouth took a proactive step by pulling sprouts from their sandwich offerings many months ago. Reports of outbreaks of Salmonella and E.coli in 2010-2011 in other areas lead to the action.

But as recently as February 16, 2012, new outbreaks of E. coli have been verified in neighboring states including some in Iowa, Missouri , Kansas, Arkansas  and Wisconsin. A Jimmy Johns E.coli outbreak affecting some 12 people has been in the news this week following a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning against eating raw colver sprouts. Investigators believe the newest outbreak can be traced back to raw clover sprouts served in some Jimmy Johns restaurants.

Local Jimmy Johns Manager Rob Martin said they took the precaution of discontinuing the use of spouts at the advice of their corporate business coach. Martin said they had been supplied with sprouts through a produce company based in Indianapolis; however, he said he is not sure from whom that distributor had purchased the product.

Martin said, “We have had no issues. This was just proactive.”

   A federal investigation by health inspectors indicated that there was a link to those becoming ill after eating at Tiny Greens Alfalfa Sprouts or Spicy Sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurant outlets.

Investigators verified at least 140 cases beginning in November, 2010. Seventy of the 140 cases were in Illinois, the state where Jimmy John’s and Tiny Greens are based. Other cases were reported to health authorities in Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin.

In January, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking a permanent injunction against the Vegi-Pak Park, LLC of Maryland citing numerous sanitary violations. The company is denying that there have been any verified links of Salmonella of E.coli back to their plant. However, the plant has been shut down after health inspectors cited a number of unsanitary practices in their processing. Violations noted at the time included, but were not limited to, equipment coated in food waste; fly infestation inside the facility; and employees who were not adequately washing and cleaning the soybeans.

Bean sprouts are cultivated with heat and moisture. Those conditions make the spouts susceptible to contamination.

   People with no known health problems, who are infected with Salmonella, can experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Although rare, Salmonella infection can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and leading to major complications.

Carol Anders Correspondent