E. Coli Infections Linked to Restaurant Chain

There has been a rash of E. coli outbreaks across the Midwest that has left more than a dozen people sick.

Cases of the E. coli infections have been traced back to the consumption of raw clover sprouts which had been served at Jimmy John's restaurants in Arkansas.

On Feb. 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement which announced the outbreak originated in raw clover sprouts that were used in sandwiches sold at Jimmy John's restaurants.

Jimmy John's is a chain of restaurants. Those who have been documented as having contracted E. coli are spread over many states including Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin. No deaths have been reported as of late and only two individuals that were infected required hospitalization.

"We are not carrying any sprouts right now," said Adam Sholes, manager of Jimmy John's. "We have not had any available for the past week, and I am in contact with our company to make sure we know exactly what is going on."

This is the fourth outbreak of a sprout-related illness to hit this food chain, but it is the first in Arkansas. Jimmy John's has six locations in Arkansas, three in central Arkansas and three in northwest Arkansas, according to The Gazette.

In a majority of the sprout cases the restaurant chain should not be blamed. The contaminated sprouts usually occur while the crop is growing or while the plant is being harvested.

The contamination occurs due to the environment that is needed in order to harvest the sprouts. Sprouts need a warm, humid environment which is also an ideal climate for bacteria to grow and is nearly impossible to wash off.

While sprouts are often regarded as a healthy food consuming raw sprouts may pose an increased risk of becoming infected. Cooked sprouts kill the bacteria and are safe to eat.