Jimmy John's E. Coli Outbreak

Jimmy John's E. Coli Outbreak

Sprout Seeds

Greene County's top disease investigator said today that the source of the E. coli outbreak that has sickened people in five states appears to be sprout seeds that were sold to growers.

"It is believed to be the seeds that were the problem," said Kendra Williams, the county administrator for community health and epidemiology.

Three of the E. coli cases linked to eating raw sprouts that are being investigated by federal health officials were in Greene County, local health officials said.

E. Coli Outbreak

Williams said three women between the ages of 25 and 49 got sick with cramps and bloody diarrhea. The Springfield- Greene County Health Department investigated and found that each woman had eaten a sandwich with raw clover sprouts from Jimmy John's.

Williams said three different Jimmy John's restaurants were involved. She said the restaurants in Springfield had obtained the sprouts from a farm in Kansas, but neither the restaurants or the farm appeared to be the source of the contamination.

When county health inspectors visited the Jimmy John's restaurants, they didn't find any contaminated sprouts. Williams said the contaminated spouts had apparently been used.

Owner of Sweetwater Farms Speaks

John Hershberger, the owner of Sweetwater Farms in Inman, Kan., said federal investigators have not conclusively linked the seeds to the outbreak. He said an investigator from the U.S. Department of Food and Drug Administration was at his farm last week but didn't find any contamination at the farm.

"They don't know that for a fact," Hershberger said of a possible link to the seeds.

Hershberger said he had voluntarily withdrawn clover sprouts from the market.

Center for Disease Control And Prevention Investigation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that it is collaborating with state and local public health officials in multiple states to investigate an outbreak of E. coli linked to eating raw sprouts. Using DNA "fingerprinting" of the E. coli bacteria and cross-referencing it with a national database, public health officials have confirmed that the bacterium is responsible for infection of 12 people in five states.

None Resulted in Hospitalization

Health officials said the local infections occurred between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13. At this point, there is no reason to believe there is an ongoing exposure risk at local restaurants.

"Jimmy John's has been extremely cooperative and has taken all necessary steps to protect food safety at its locations," said Health Director Kevin Gipson. "They took our investigation seriously and treated it with prompt attention."

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