URBANA — The owner of an Urbana sprouts farm that had been linked to a salmonella outbreak associated with Jimmy John's restaurants over a year ago says none of the products from his operation are associated with the latest E. coli outbreak.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday that 12 cases of E. coli poisoning in five states are linked to raw clover sprouts eaten at Jimmy John's restaurants.
According to the centers' website, five people were reported ill in Iowa, three in Missouri, two in Kansas, one in Arkansas and one in Wisconsin.
Jimmy John's spokeswoman Mary Trader said on Thursday that the company is not releasing a statement at this time.
Bill Bagby, the owner of Tiny Greens Organic Farm in rural Urbana, which is one of several providers of clover sprouts for Jimmy John's restaurants, said none of the sprouts cited in the latest outbreak came from his farm.
"We are not involved in any way, nor are we associated in any way with this current outbreak," Bagby said on Thursday.
The CDC website said the clover spouts used at the affected restaurants all came from two sprouting facilities using the same lot of clover seeds provided by International Specialty Supply, also known as ISS, in Cookeville, Tenn.
Bagby said the sprouting facilities involved in the latest outbreak are located in states west of Illinois and added that Tiny Greens doesn't use ISS.
"I don't buy from that company because it doesn't have a sufficient decontamination procedure for the seeds," Bagby said.
Bagby said Tiny Greens gets all its seeds from the Caudill Seed Co. in Louisville, Ky., because it uses a system to decontaminate the sprouting seeds.
"They use a process involving heat and a vacuum," Bagby said.
After the sprouts are harvested at the Urbana farm, Tiny Greens provides products to wholesale, supermarket and food service distributors around the Midwest. The wholesalers, in turn, distribute the sprouts to Jimmy John's.
Tiny Greens said it took several corrective actions following the Jimmy John's salmonella outbreak between November 2010 and February 2011.
Those changes included prohibiting outside carts and boots from the interior of the production facility, limiting the use of a greenhouse door for only exiting, building splash guards for the growing racks and on the wheels of carts used to move items, repairing a leaky valve, installing two new signs for hand washing, prohibiting the use of compost in growing any micro greens and increasing sanitation training for employees. The farm has never used compost or manure to grow sprouts, Bagby said.
After each harvest, products from Tiny Greens are sent to two separate food microbiology testing laboratories, IEH Laboratory in Carol Stream and MarketFresh Food Testing Laboratory in Minnesota for testing for E. Coli and salmonella.
"We wait for the test results before we sell the products," Bagby said.
According to Bagby, since Tiny Greens made the changes, no sprouts have tested positive for E. Coli or salmonella.
Bagby said he was notified that Jimmy John's has removed sprouts from its menu following this week's finding by the CDC.
"It is ironic because sprouts have a high vitamin content, are rich in enzymes and phyto nutrients and strengthen one's immune system," Bagby said.