Food Safety Alert: What’s Going On at Jimmy John’s?


The Northwest Indiana Porter County Health Department is investigating 60 cases of norovirus that may be linked to the local Jimmy John’s. The ill people reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.

Twenty of the cases were rescue workers at the scene of a 3-train crash in Valparaiso on Friday. Jimmy John’s provided food to those workers. On Sunday, reports of illness started coming in. On Monday, other reports of illness came in from people not working at the scene of the crash but who also ate food from the same Jimmy John’s. These details all point to Jimmy John’s as the possible source of the outbreak.

More details here:

Norovirus Behind Outbreak in Indiana

Jimmy John’s is quite experienced in handling foodborne illness outbreaks. Check out their recent history:

December 2010: Salmonella Newport — Sprouts

Sprouts from Sprouters Northwest were implicated in an outbreak of salmonella Newport in Oregon and Washington. Some of the cases had eaten the sprouts from Jimmy John’s restaurants.

November 2010: Salmonella — Alfalfa Sprouts

Tiny Greens Organic Farms were implicated in a salmonella outbreak with many of the cases coming from Jimmy John’s in Illinois. The FDA linked salmonella found in water runoff from the Tiny Greens Organic Farms to the same strain of salmonella from the outbreak.

September 2008: E.coli 0157 — Alfalfa Sprouts and Iceberg Lettuce 

Several of the cases came from one sorority at the University of Colorado. Symptoms included bloody diarrhea and cramping. The local health department identified many food safety problems at the implicated Jimmy John’s location. Improper hand washing seemed to be the number one problem.

Pay Attention to Food-Handling Techniques & Auditing

So, back to my original question, What’s going on at Jimmy John’s? It’s not a coincidence when we see multiple outbreaks associated with one organization. When retail food chains expand, they seem to forget about controlling food safety. It becomes harder and harder to train employees and source product free of illness-causing pathogens.

I suggest Jimmy John’s needs to update food-handling techniques company wide and do a better job testing and auditing the farms that supply them with product. Restaurants need to understand they are held responsible for serving contaminated food even though it was delivered contaminated. Jimmy John’s customers shouldn’t have to worry about the food they are eating, but, unfortunately, they do.

Originally published 1.13.12

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