WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 25 issued a warning letter to Jimmy John’s in connection with the Champaign, Illinois-based sandwich shop chain’s role in a string of recent outbreaks of E. coli and Salmonella.

Citing evidence from five outbreaks, including the most recent outbreak in Iowa during December 2019, the FDA said Jimmy John’s franchised restaurants “engaged in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers.”

Data from the Iowa Dept. of Public Health show 22 people from Iowa were infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 as of Jan. 7, and all 20 of the people interviewed in connection with the outbreak reported eating at one or more of 15 Jimmy John’s restaurants. Of the 20 people interviewed, nine said they ate sprouts in the week before their illness.

The FDA also linked Jimmy John’s to outbreaks in 2018 in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin; in 2014 in California, Michigan, Montana, Utah and Washington; in 2013 in Colorado; and in 2012 in 11 states.

In total, the FDA noted in the warning letter that outbreaks associated with Jimmy John’s spanned over the past seven years and affected at least 17 states, saying “the corporate-wide supplier control mechanisms you have in place for receiving fresh produce are inadequate.”

The FDA said it met with Jimmy John’s officials in May 2012, and during that meeting the sandwich chain’s officials said they would offer only clover sprouts and only source clover sprouts from (X) suppliers.

“Since that corrective action, your firm has been implicated in three additional sprout-related outbreaks,” the FDA said. “Documents from traceback investigations conducted by FDA, states and local partners demonstrate that in addition to (X) sprouts, Jimmy John’s restaurants are using multiple other sources of sprouts.

“Although you stated that corrective actions were implemented following the 2019 and 2012 outbreaks, you have not provided FDA with any information demonstrating long-term, sustainable corrections have been implemented throughout your organization to prevent this violation from recurring in the future. For example, providing FDA with documentation of policies and practices demonstrating that you have made a corporate commitment to ensure produce covered by the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (Produce Safety Rule), Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 112 (21 CFR Part 112), specifically sprouts, and sourced by any Jimmy John’s restaurant will be procured from a farm or firm operating in compliance with the Produce Safety Rule, the Act, and, as applicable, the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Foods (PC Rule), 21 CFR Part 117.”

The FDA has given Jimmy John’s 15 days to respond to its warning letter.

Jimmy John’s has not responded to the letter but did note that in December it removed all sprouts from its restaurants until further notice.