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Jimmy John’s Safe Again? FDA Not Saying

Food Safety News – Having originally reported that an outbreak was linked to clover sprouts used by Jimmy John’s restaurants, the FDA now says the E. coli outbreak is related to products from Chicago Indoor Garden that were distributed to Whole Foods, Coosemans and other entities.

The new public recommendation posted yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration informs consumers about a recall in recent days of Chicago Indoor Garden red clover sprouts, but it does not mentioned the Jimmy John’s connection that was outlined in a Feb. 26 alert. 

“The FDA’s analysis of a sample of this firm’s (Chicago Indoor Garden) product identified the presence of E. coli O103,” according to the FDA’s March 17 update. “Whole genome sequencing of this bacteria showed that it matches the outbreak strain.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not posted an update on the outbreak in weeks. The FDA reported yesterday that the most recent symptom onset date was Feb. 11, which is the date last reported by the CDC.

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In its Feb. 26 update and again yesterday the the FDA reported it is working with the CDC and state and local public health officials on the outbreak investigation. Outbreak patients have been identified in five states. Those states and the number of patients are: Iowa with three, Illinois with six, Missouri with one, Texas with one and Utah with three.

“FDA is recommending that consumers not eat the following recalled items (see list below) with ‘Best By’ dates between 12/1/2019 and 3/12/2020 that were distributed to Whole Foods throughout the Midwest, Coosemans Chicago Inc., Battaglia Distributing, and Living Waters Farms,” according to the agency’s statement yesterday.

“As the outbreak investigation progresses, the FDA will continue in its traceback investigation to determine where implicated sprouts have been distributed and will continue monitoring for additional illnesses associated with this outbreak.”

The recalled Chicago Indoor Garden products all include red clover sprouts, which were found to be the contaminated ingredient. Best-by dates on the recalled products run from Dec. 1, 2019, through March 12 this year.

Products included in the recall are:

  • Red Clover 4-ounce clamshells
  • Red Clover 2-pound boxes
  • Sprout Salad 6-ounce clamshells
  • Mixed Greens 4-ounce clamshells
  • Spring Salad 6-ounce clamshells
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About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled Chicago Indoor Garden sprouts developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 percent to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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