Although health authorities have linked a salmonella outbreak to alfalfa sprouts served at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches in Illinois, the company’s owner said not all victims reported eating sprouts.

In a Dec. 21 letter to franchisees, Jimmy John Liautaud said 28 of 40 salmonella victims interviewed by public health officials reported eating at Jimmy John’s. Of those, 25 reported eating sprouts, he said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed 43 cases of illness involving the same salmonella serotype. Many victims, the department said, reported eating sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants in 10 Illinois counties: Adams, Champaign, Cook, DuPage, Kankakee, Macon, McHenry, McLean, Peoria and Will.

In his letter, Liautaud said the Champaign, Ill.-based chain is temporarily removing sprouts from Illinois menus while awaiting direction from the state. “No source has been found yet, this is a precautionary measure,” according to the letter.

The company’s main supplier of alfalfa sprouts tested negative for salmonella on Dec. 17, Liautaud said, and restaurants tested to date were also negative.

The state also asked Jimmy John’s to test all food-handling employees at two restaurants in Champaign. Those tests were still ongoing Dec. 21.

In May, Caldwell Fresh Foods, Maywood, Calif., recalled alfalfa sprouts after more than two dozen people in 10 states had been sickened with the same strain of salmonella.

Other companies recalled sprouts in July, August and October after testing confirmed salmonella or listeria, but illnesses were not linked to those cases.

Source still sought in Jimmy John’s salmonella cases