Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich franchises like to be known for “freaky fast delivery,” promising customers quick response.
But the promise does not apply to the news media after foodborne illness outbreaks involving Jimmy John’s.
Since the February 15 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about a five state outbreak of the rare O26 strain of E. coli associated with clover sprouts served by its sandwich restaurants, Jimmy John’s has opted not to respond at all to media inquiries.
Jimmy John Liautaud, founder of Jimmy John’s, has not responded to an invitation to respond to questions from Food Safety News. The invitation was sent to his private email address, which was provided by one of Jimmy John’s former advertising and public relations agencies.
After previous outbreaks involving Jimmy John’s, the franchise restaurant chain also dodged the media. In January 2011, however, Liautaud did respond to multiple outbreaks involving alfalfa sprouts served by Jimmy John’s restaurants with an announcement the chain was switching to clover sprouts.
But since this new warning by CDC about the E. coli O26 outbreak involving clover sprouts from Jimmy John’s, the chain has gone back to the silent strategy. One of its competitors, Erbert and Gerbert’s Sandwich Shops, has for the time dropped sprouts from the menu.
“The decision to pull the sprouts from our system-wide menu is being made to protect the health of our guests,” said E&G’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Wolfe. “We value the well-being of our customers and felt removing all sprouts from our menu and sandwich line was the best way to eliminate the risk.
Until they were pulled, alfalfa sprouts were served at E&G’s restaurants in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, George and Texas.
CDC’s initial case count for the latest Jimmy John’s-connected outbreak totaled 12. Two have been hospitalized.
The sickened were in Iowa (5), Missouri (3), Kansas (2), Arkansas (1), and Wisconsin (1).
All the victims, so far, have been female, ranging in age from 9 to 49 with a median age of 25. None have died.
CDC identified a common lot of clover seeds used to grow the clover sprouts served on Jimmy John’s sandwiches.