For additional details, see "Sprout grower, Jimmy John's sued in E. coli outbreak"
The Idaho grower whose clover sprouts have been linked to an E. coli outbreak said the Food and Drug Administration has notified him that samples of his sprouts from a Jimmy John’s restaurant and seed at his growing operation did not test positive for the pathogen.
Dave Scharf, owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, Moyie, Idaho, said FDA officials called him at about 6:45 p.m. Eastern time on June 2 to tell him about the test results. Results from environmental swabs at his growing facility were not yet available, he said.
“I have a clear conscious knowing my product is not what made people sick,” Scharf said.
He said FDA investigators were at his operation every day for two weeks after nine out of the 10 outbreak victims said they had eaten sprouts on sandwiches from Jimmy John’s, Pita Pit and Daanen’s Deli restaurants in Washington state and Idaho. Scharf does not sell direct to most customers, he said. His sprouts are handled by a distributor.
FDA officials were not immediately available for comment on June 2.
The negative test results don’t mean Scharf’s sprouts were not the cause of the illnesses, said Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler, who is handling a case for Idaho resident Honey Sayler.
Sayler’s case names Evergreen Fresh Sprout’s and Jimmy John’s as defendants. Sayler ate a sandwich from Jimmy John’s that included clover sprouts in early May. She was hospitalized with an E. coli 0121 infection, according to the lawsuit.
“It is not unusual for some samples to test negative,” Marler said June 2. “There are many different ways to prove a foodborne illness case and epidemiological (investigations) are admissible.”
Scharf said the FDA staff did not say when the remainder of test results are expected. He said his business is operating at about 50% capacity because of lagging orders.
“People are just running scared because of this,” Scharf said.