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E. coli, Clover Sprouts, Intestinal Illness and Restaurants

C. Donald J. Reinhardt, February 16, 2012

The CDC reported on February 15, 2012 that a restaurant used E. coli-sprouted clover plants from two different lots of contaminated clover seeds. At least twelve people in 5 states in the U.S. have been sickened by tainted sandwiches containing these sprouts.

Escherichia coli is an inhabitant of the intestinal tracts of many animals. There are many different kinds of E. coli and some types of E.coli are more dangerous than others. Recently, infection was traced to Jimmy John's Restaurants which was identified as the problem site and source of E. coli in clover seeds. These sprouted seeds contained large amounts of E. coli which after ingestion in the sandwich garnishments or additives caused intestinal upset. Since sprouts are not cooked, but eaten raw, the bacteria survive and multiply in the eater's GI tract and, if of certain specific disease types or kinds, these bacteria typically cause diarrhea and other signs and symptoms of GI upset. The CDC can identify the specific type and kind of E. coli and determine the specific, actual strain found in the sprouts and isolated from the patients.

Uncooked foods and improperly cooked foods are always potential risks as infective vehicles for transmission of microbial disease. Read more about the E. coli sprout epidemic in Germany.

Learn more about Infections and Dangerous Escherichia coli here.

CDC Map of E. coli Clover Sprout 5-State Epidemic as of 2/15/2012