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  1. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

FDA Investigated Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Sprouts

February 28, 2018

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local partners, investigated multiple Salmonella illnesses linked to sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin and a grocery store in Minnesota. .

Fast Facts

  • An outbreak of Salmonella illnesses linked to sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin, as well as a grocery store in Minnesota appears to be over, the CDC announced on February 28, 2018. Any contaminated sprouts that made people sick in this outbreak would no longer be on the market.
  • Epidemiologic evidence indicated that raw sprouts were the likely source of a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo infections, the CDC reported.
  • The FDA worked with partners in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin to investigate the distribution chain of sprouts used during the time period of interest. To date, no contamination source has been identified

What was the Problem and What is being Done About It?

The FDA, CDC, and state and local officials investigated a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella infections. CDC reports that epidemiologic evidence indicates that raw sprouts were the likely source of this outbreak.

The CDC reported that ten people were infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Montevideo in, IL (2), MN (2), and WI (6). Eight (80%) of these ten people ate meals at Jimmy John’s restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin the week before becoming sick.  All eight people reported eating raw sprouts on sandwiches from Jimmy John’s in IL and WI.  One ill person in this outbreak reported eating raw sprouts purchased from a grocery store in Minnesota. All the Salmonella Montevideo isolates are closely related by whole genome sequencing. Any sprouts that made people sick in this outbreak would currently be beyond their shelf life.

State and local partners, including the Illinois Department of Public Health, Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, assisted trace back activities in this outbreak by collecting invoices from various Jimmy John’s locations, the MN grocery store and/or distributors to help determine the source of the sprouts.

The FDA collected invoices and/or samples from growers and seed suppliers that produced the sprouts. All the samples that were collected subsequently tested negative. The FDA continues to work with these facilities to address potential issues that may have contributed to contamination during production.

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  • CDC notified the FDA of these illnesses on January 16, 2018.
  • By January 17th, federal and state investigators had received epidemiological information that some ill people reported eating sprouts on sandwiches at multiple Jimmy John’s locations in Illinois and Wisconsin.
  • On January 18, 2018, the FDA, CDC and state partners spoke with Jimmy Johns corporate headquarters to learn more about the origin of the clover sprouts.
  • On January 19, 2018, the FDA and CDC advised people dining at Jimmy John’s locations in Illinois and Wisconsin to avoid sprouts. On the same day, Jimmy John’s announced that it had directed all of its retail locations to temporarily stop serving sprouts.
  • On January 28, 2018, the most recent case became ill.
  • On February 28, 2018, CDC announced that this outbreak appears to be over.

What are the Symptoms of Salmonella Infection?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

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Who is at Risk?

Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis. The rate of diagnosed infections in children less than five years old is higher than the rate in all other people. Children younger than five, the elderly, and those people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe infections. It is estimated that approximately 400 persons in the United States die each year with acute salmonellosis. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind.

What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need To Do?

Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have served any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products. They should follow the steps below:

  • Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
  • Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to prepare, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
  • Wash hands with hot water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces and utensils used in food preparation may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.

What Do Consumers Need To Do?

Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts that are served on salads, wraps, sandwiches, and other foods may contain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Unlike other fresh produce, the warm and humid conditions used for sprouting are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. Any bacteria present can multiply dramatically during the sprouting process. (Organic or locally-grown sprouts are not necessarily less risky, and neither are sprouts grown at home.) Washing sprouts may reduce risk, but will not eliminate it.

Who to Contact

Consumers who have symptoms should contact their health care provider to report their symptoms and receive care.

To report a complaint or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction), you can

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