Public health officials have identified another 25 victims in an E. coli outbreak traced to raw sprouts that were served at Jimmy John’s, sold at Whole Foods and other retailers, and distributed to unknown entities.

Updates from the FDA and CDC this afternoon reported the six-state outbreak has now sickened 39 people, with 27 of them in Utah. Iowa has 3 cases, Illinois has 6 and there is one each in Missouri, Texas, and Florida. Two people have been admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been reported to federal officials.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has traced the outbreak to sprouts grown by Chicago Indoor Garden, and possibly other growers. The agency specifically identified the outbreak strain of E. coli in sprouts from Chicago Indoor Garden.

The sprouts E. coli O103 outbreak is being investigated separately from an outbreak in late 2019, FDA officials told Food Safety News, because of the length of time between the last illness onset date in the first outbreak and the first onset date of the current outbreak. Both outbreaks involve Jimmy John’s and on Feb. 24 the chain stopped offering red clover sprouts.

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“The sample also matches the outbreak strain from the November-December 2019 outbreak in Iowa, which was associated with sprouts from various Jimmy John’s restaurants,” according to the agency’s update today.

The FDA says the problem originates with certain seeds used to grow the implicated sprouts, and possibly other sprouts that are yet unknown. The agency also says it’s traceback investigation is ongoing as the disease detectives try to determine where the recalled sprouts and an entire lot of implicated seeds may have been sent.

“FDA’s traceback investigation has shown that a common seed lot was used to grow the sprouts recalled by Chicago Indoor Garden and the sprouts that were served at Jimmy John’s locations where people sickened in the current outbreak reported eating. The same seed lot was also used to grow sprouts linked to an of the same strain of E. coli O103 infections in 2019. This investigation is ongoing to determine where implicated sprouts and seeds have been distributed,” according to the FDA update.

On March 16 Chicago Indoor Garden recalled all products containing red clover sprouts. The best-by dates of the recalled products ended on March 12, but the CDC again today advised consumers, restaurants, and retailers to not eat, serve or sell recalled products containing sprouts from Chicago Indoor Garden. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today that illness onset dates in the current outbreak run from Jan. 6 through March 2. However, there can be a lag time of up to four weeks between when a person is diagnosed and when they are added to the federal tally. Confirmation testing and the reporting process are behind the delays.

The CDC reported the following outbreak details today:

  • Ill people range in age from 1 to 79 years, with a median age of 28. 
  • 53 percent of ill people are female.
  • 59 percent of people interviewed reported eating sprouts. 
  • 58 percent of people interviewed reported eating sprouts at a Jimmy John’s restaurant.

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