Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a food safety alert following a multi-state outbreak of E. coli infections linked with the fast-food sandwich chain Jimmy John's.
CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, began investigating the outbreak earlier this week after the virus sickened 14 people in five states -- Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Utah.
Officials have said clover sprouts from Jimmy John's are a likely source of the outbreak.
Jimmy John's temporarily stopped serving clover sprouts at all of its restaurants last month after a salmonella outbreak was linked to locations in Illinois and Wisconsin. Two Illinois residents became ill on Dec. 20 and 26, according to the state's Department of Public Health.
The Wisconsin Department of Health also identified five people infected by the strain.
Earlier this week, the FDA issued a warning letter accusing the sandwich chain of selling fresh produce linked to five outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella in the past seven years.
In the letter, the FDA said it has investigated several outbreaks connected to the sandwich chain and determined it has been engaged in "a pattern of receiving and offering for sale adulterated fresh produce."
According to the letter, the first outbreak connected to the sandwich chain was in 2012 when 29 people in 11 states were sickened by E. coli followed by eight people infected with E. coli in Colorado in October of 2013, 19 people sickened with E. coli in five states in August of 2014 and 10 people with salmonella in February 2018.
The CDC said Thursday that Jimmy John's stopped serving clover sprouts -- permanently -- on Monday. Agency investigators are working to determine whether other restaurants or retailers received the same clover sprouts -- from the supplier Sprouts Unlimited Wholesale Foods -- that are linked to illness.
"If you have leftovers with clover sprouts from Jimmy John's, don't eat them," the CDC said in a statement. "Throw the leftovers away. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection."
Symptoms of E. coli infection include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, according to the CDC. These symptoms may persist for five to seven days.
Those sickened should report their illness to their local health department so that officials can continue to monitor the outbreak, the CDC said.