State reports different numbers for Jimmy John’s outbreak than CDC did


When the CDC declared a Jimmy John’s E. coli O103 outbreak over with a total of 51 people infected from 10 states, the agency included only three patients from Iowa.

However, a report from the Iowa Department of Health says that 22 people from the state were sickened.

“A total of 23 individuals were identified and interviewed as part of this investigation. Of these individuals, 22 were laboratory confirmed and one probable case was epidemiologically linked to a laboratory confirmed case,” according to the Iowa report.

“A case was defined as a person with E.coli O103 infection, whose clinical isolate was related within 0-2 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, and with specimen collection dates between Nov. 26, 2019, and Dec. 21, 2019. A total of 22 individuals met this case definition from 10 Iowa counties. Of these, 14 were female. The median age was 29 years.”

According to the nationwide numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illnesses started on dates ranging from Jan. 6, 2020, to March 15, 2020. Ill people ranged in age from 1 to 79 years, with a median age of 29 years. Fifty-five percent of ill people were female. Of 41 ill people with information available, three were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

According to the Iowa officials, patients became ill with E. coli O103 after consuming clover sprouts produced by Sprouts Unlimited Wholesale Foods Inc. and sold to consumers on sandwiches at Jimmy John’s restaurants. Sick people reported eating food from 15 different Jimmy John’s locations. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health first identified this outbreak through routine disease surveillance on Dec. 18, 2019, when four sick people reported eating sandwiches sold at various Jimmy John’s locations.

Iowa’s food retail and manufacturing regulatory agency, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA), notified Jimmy John’s district office of the findings. Based on the epidemiological information, Sprouts Unlimited voluntarily ceased further distribution of clover sprouts pending additional information.

On Feb. 21, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Jimmy John’s with evidence that demonstrates Jimmy John’s engaged in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers.

The FDA issued a warning letter to Sprouts Unlimited on Feb. 25, 2020, for supplying sprouts to Jimmy John’s which lead to this outbreak being identified. Also, several violations were observed during FDA’s inspection of Sprouts Unlimited on Dec. 31, 2019.

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