Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to Jimmy John's, 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 dated Friday, 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," specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers.
"Jimmy John's restaurants have been implicated in multiple outbreaks that have spanned the past seven years and impacted consumers in no fewer than 17 states," FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas said Tuesday in a statement. "Jimmy John's has not demonstrated implementation of long-term sustainable corrections to its supply chain to assure the safety of ingredients used in its products."
In the letter, the FDA said Jimmy John's, which has about 2,800 franchises in 43 states, must respond within 15 days from Friday as to how it will fix the problem or provide proof if it believes it has already addressed the issue.
"It is your responsibility to ensure your firm complies with all requirements of federal law and implementing regulations," the letter read. "You should take prompt action to correct all violations noted in this letter. Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in enforcement action by FDA without further notice, including seizure and/or injunction."
Jimmy John's President James North said in a statement that in response it would stop selling sprouts at all stores until further notice.
"Food safety is our top priority," he said. "...This removal was out of an abundance of caution and was not initiated by any known immediate threat."
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 most recent outbreak of E. coli connected to the store late last year has sickened 22 people in Iowa.
The FDA also issued a warning letter to Sprouts Unlimited Wholesale Foods for supplying Jimmy John's with sprouts connected to the most recent outbreak.
"Americans expect the foods they consume to be safe," said Yiannas. "We will hold companies accountable when they do not take adequate measures to ensure the safety of the foods they provide."