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Three cases of E. coli tainted sprouts at Jimmy John's found in Greene County

February 16, 2012|by Jay Scherder, KY3 News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo - Sprouts from the sandwich chain Jimmy John's have been linked to an outbreak of foodborne illness in the Ozarks.

“We received three reports of shiga toxin producingE. coliin Greene county residents between January 7and January 13,” said Administrator of Community Health and Epidemiology. 

The Springfield Greene-County Health Department's epidemiological team worked to identify the common source of the illness on a local level beginning in mid-January, and those efforts contributed to a broader investigation as more cases were identified across the country.

The Greene County Health Department says in this case, theE. coliwas caused by contaminated seeds. While they don’t know yet where those seeds came from, what they did say is the spouts themselves came from growers in Kansas.

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“The issue with sprouts is the seed becomes contaminated," said Williams, "the seeds have to be grown in a warm, moist environment  which is ideal for bacterial growth.”

Health inspectors from the department's food division were also involved, following up at restaurant locations by taking samples and looking for any other possible sources of infection.

“Jimmy John’s has worked very closely with us during this investigation,” said Williams. "They allowed us to come into the five locations here in Springfield and take food samples.”

Those affected in Springfield were all women--following the national trend of those affected. “So far there are 12 cases," Williams said. "They are all women. The median age is mid twenties. The only theory I have is that women are more likely to eat sprouts than men.”

The outbreak comes a year after sprouts from one of the chain's suppliers were linked to 140 salmonella illnesses. Sprouts from the chain were also linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak in several
Midwestern states and were suspected in anE. coli outbreak in Colorado in 2008.

“Since 1996, there have been 30 outbreaks of disease directly associated with sprouts,” Williams said. 

The growing conditions for sprouts are likely to blame. Sprouts need warm and humid conditions to grow, encouraging bacterial growth.

Illnesses were reported in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Wisconsin.

All three Jimmy John's locations in Springfield have pulled sprouts from their restaurants.

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