The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to Jimmy John's, accusing the company of engaging in a pattern of receiving and selling "adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers."
The FDA sent the warning letter on Feb. 21 to Jimmy John's President James North and lays out evidence regarding five outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella in the past seven years.
“Jimmy John’s restaurants have been implicated in multiple outbreaks that have spanned the past seven years and impacted consumers in no fewer than 17 states," Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, said in a press release.
"Jimmy John’s has not demonstrated implementation of long-term sustainable corrections to its supply chain to assure the safety of ingredients used in its products," he said.
In response, Jimmy John's president James North confirmed the chain would be removing sprouts from all its stores until further notice.
"Food safety is our top priority. We’ve removed sprouts from all Jimmy John’s restaurants until further notice. This removal was out of an abundance of caution and was not initiated by any known, immediate threat,” North said in a statement.
The FDA also posted a warning letter on Wednesday to Sprouts Unlimited Wholesale Foods for supplying sprouts to Jimmy John’s which were linked to the most recent outbreak late last year. According to the FDA, sprouts sold at Jimmy John's infected 22 people from Iowa with E. coli during November and December 2019.
The FDA asked for Jimmy John's to respond within 15 days and document steps they plan to take to "prevent the receipt and sale of adulterated food at each of the approximately 2,800 Jimmy John’s restaurants."
According to the FDA letter, the four other outbreaks linked to Jimmy John's included:
- A salmonella outbreak that infected ten people, as of Feb. 28, 2018, in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Eight of the individuals reported eating raw sprouts on Jimmy John's sandwiches in Illinois and Wisconsin before getting sick. While one person reported eating sprouts bought from a Minnesota grocery store.
- An E. coli outbreak that infected 19 people, as of Aug. 1, 2014, in Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Utah, California and Washington. Most individuals reported eating raw clover sprouts in the week before getting sick and Jimmy Johns was identified as the most likely source in some cases, the FDA said.
- An E. coli outbreak that infected eight people from Colorado, as of Oct. 2013. Health officials said each person had eaten a sandwich with raw cucumbers at one of three Jimmy John's stores in the Denver area.
- An E. coli outbreak that infected a total of 29 people from 11 states, as of April 5, 2012. The FDA said 23 of those ate sprouts at one of six Jimmy John's stores in the week before their illness.
"Taken together, these outbreaks, which spanned over the past seven years and impacted no fewer than seventeen states demonstrate the corporate-wide supplier control mechanisms you have in place for receiving fresh produce are inadequate," the FDA stated in its warning letter.