Sprouting E. coli: The Jimmy John’s outbreak

Recently, we covered the connection between leafy greens and E. coli. This issue trickles down into the restaurant industry, and Jimmy John’s restaurants experience recurring issues with sprouts and E. coli.

Jimmy John's sandwich

Photo courtesy of Jimmy John’s

A history of E. coli

In 2008 and 2009, an E. coli outbreak O157:H7 was reported in Boulder, Colorado. There were at least 19 confirmed cases, in which employees themselves became ill. They continued to work while suffering from diarrhea and did not follow handwashing protocols. The illness spread to customers.

In 2011 and 2012, a multi-state E. coli O26 outbreak was linked to clover sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants in five states. At least 29 people fell ill, and six were hospitalized with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O16 infections.

clover sprouts

Current case: Travis Knorr

On February 21, 2019, Travis Knorr bit into his Jimmy John’s sandwich, topped with raw sprouts. By February 26, he fell ill. On the 28th, he had to leave work and was diagnosed with E. coli.

By the time Knorr became sick, 51 people across 10 states were affected and three, including himself, were hospitalized. Knorr and his wife sued the Jimmy John’s franchise and a judge permitted them to seek punitive and compensatory damages. Punitive damages are a further punishment on whomever is being sued, beyond whatever sum is demanded from compensatory damages. They are a consequence inflicted on those who demonstrated a knowing disregard for the safety of their customers.

Per the investigation, Jimmy John’s failed to:

  • Remove contaminated sprouts from the menu
  • Practice risk communication with their customers
  • Provide adequate resources to food-handlers to prevent cross-contamination

The fecal transplant

As a response to the antibiotic therapy used to treat his initial illness, Knorr contracted a C. difficile infection and as a result, had to undergo a fecal transplant. Also known as bacteriotherapy, it’s a procedure in which healthy donor stool is transplanted into the patient’s gastrointestinal system via colonoscopy. It is almost exclusively used as a treatment for C. difficile colitis, which is a complication of antibiotic therapy, and serves to replenish the bacterial balance.

E. coli

How to avoid E. coli

E. coli is a potentially dangerous illness, and one way to stay safe is to stay tuned to our food recall updates. We also post about complications from E. Coli and how to prevent contracting the illness.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a foodborne illness through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Allen & Allen today for a free consultation at 866-388-1307.