An outbreak of E. coli cases have led health officials to warn consumers not to eat raw clover sprouts from an Idaho producer.
The sprouts under investigation are linked to eight confirmed and two probable cases of E. coli O121 illnesses in Washington and Idaho. Five of those patients were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.
Five cases were reported in Spokane County, two in King County and three in Kootenai County, Idaho.
The state Health Department said all the cases were reported the first two weeks of May.
Results from initial investigations indicate a strong link to eating raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, LLC of Idaho.
Sprouts were eaten in sandwiches at several food establishments including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches locations in King and Spokane counties, as well as two Pita Pit locations in Spokane County, and Daanen’s Deli as well as a Jimmy John’s location in Kootenai County.
The restaurants where the cases reported eating raw clover sprouts have voluntarily suspended serving sprouts.
Public Health Seattle-King County said the two King County cases were both from the Jimmy John’s at 15253 Bel-Red Road in Bellevue.
Two women were served sprouts. Neither was hospitalized. Both are currently recovering, but needed multiple visits to health care.
Health officials said the Bellevue, Washington, Jimmy John’s was complying with food handling rules. A local spokesperson for Jimmy John’s said they are cooperating with health officials and have pulled sprouts off of their menu.
Even so, food safety attorney Bill Marler said he has helped clients sue Jimmy John’s for the same problem in the past.
“This is an ongoing problem for Jimmy John’s, and they seem to not be able to get it right. They just simply shouldn’t have brought these back on the market,” Marler said.
The corporate spokesperson for Jimmy John’s said she could not comment on the case.
While the outbreak appears to be linked to clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts in Idaho, the source of the sprout seed hasn’t yet been determined and remains under investigation.
The owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, David Scharf, said there is no proof that anything is wrong with his product.
“I almost wish they wouldn’t run anything until they get the results back. Because why would you look like an idiot, if there’s nothing wrong with the product?” Scharf said.
Scharf said he gets consistent lab tests done on his sprouts, and the results have been clean. He said there has been no proven contamination besides the anecdotes of surveys taken from the 10 people who are ill.