(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 1) Just as the country’s second-largest grocery retailer is discontinuing sales of fresh sprouts because of food safety concerns, restaurateur Jimmy John Liautaud is reintroducing them at more than 1,200 Jimmy John’s locations nationwide.
In a posting on the chain’s Facebook page, Liautaud announced the crunchy sandwich toppers were already back in restaurants in central Illinois, near the company headquarters in Champaign, Ill.
“I am rolling out a new sprout. Costs more for me, it’s tougher to manage, but we think we hit a homerun on this one,” Liautaud’s Facebook post from Oct. 3 states.
He went on to tell Facebook fans that sprouts would be available in all Illinois stores a week later, to be followed by a 16-week rollout to spread sprouts to Jimmy John’s restaurants nationwide.
The chain pulled sprouts from restaurants in February after five sprout-related illness outbreaks in the past four years traced back to Jimmy John’s sandwiches.
Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in foodborne illness litigation, said Oct. 24 that he is representing several people in the Midwest who were sickened by Jimmy John’s sprouts in 2011.
“I’ve lost track over the years how many outbreaks have been linked to sprouts,” Marler said.
Jimmy John’s corporate offices referred questions to Olson PR, a Chicago firm, which did not respond to repeated calls for requests for details about the “new sprout” referred to in Liautaud’s Facebook post.
The Jimmy John’s website does not include any mention of sprouts coming back to the chain. The menu page of the website, which has a 2009 copyright date, has continued to include sprouts as an option, despite the February move to remove them from restaurants.
Liautaud’s decision to bring sprouts back to the restaurants bearing his name comes on the heels of an Oct. 19 announcement by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. that it would stop selling fresh sprouts at its 2,400 stores, effective Oct. 22 because of food safety concerns.