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.

  • keith Warriner

    Interesting that we have yet another non-O157 STEC linked to sprouts and that females are primarily affected. I think this further underlines that beef if not the major source of non-O157 STEC and if testing needs to be done then sprouts would be a better option. On a second point, I frequently hear about their being no interventions to disinfect seeds. I know of 5 that have proven effective although why these are not adopted by industry is unclear.

  • Janine K.

    MR. Warriner, Please tell us more about the root of this “non-O157 STEC” and the interventions to disinfect the seeds. My nephew is 100% vegan and like many of us, considered non meat products to be safer. I am VERY curious how a sprout seed gets infected. Thanks.

  • Janine K.

    Silly me, I’m new here and only had to do a simple search on this site to answer PART of my question regarding infection and disinfection of seeds:

  • LA

    Most of these outbreaks are caused from workers using restroom in the field contaminating crops or having cattle farms too close (manure – run off on produce. I’m sure it’s the same problem here again. It’s called Factory Farming & Big Farms >> the system doesn’t work!!! Buy Local, Organic >>Support your farmers markets instead >>They are Fun, Fresher, Healthier and cheaper!!!!!!!

  • Mar

    Why use sprouts at all?! Have we not learned from the 60’s when the same problem was widespread. Sprouts really do not change much in the taste of a sandwich – unless you are a hippie 🙂

  • TJ

    I got insta-food poisoning an hour after eating their subs about a week ago.