It was a tough year for the fresh sprout industry. Sandwich chains dropped the item, and the No. 2 retailer in the U.S., Kroger, stopped carrying them after No.1 Wal-Mart did so the year before.

But the sprout industry formed the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science, which set growing standards this fall after a slow start.


Jan. 30

Jason’s Deli drops sprouts

By Mike Hornick, Staff Writer

Frequent recalls and concerns about the safety of sprouts have prompted Jason’s Deli to drop them from its menu nationwide for the remainder of 2012.

The change, already in place in some markets, will take full effect sometime in April. Beaumont, Texas-based Jason’s Deli has more than 230 restaurants in 28 states.

It is replacing sprouts with organic spinach and field greens.

“We’ve lost confidence in sprouts,” said Daniel Helfman, Jason’s Deli director of public relations. “We’re all about food safety and the health and wellness of our customers. Bottom line, when you look at what’s occurred with sprouts just in the last year or so, the recalls and warnings, it’s enough that we feel we have to walk away for all of 2012 and maybe 2013.”


7. Sprouts salmonella outbreakFeb. 20

Sandwich chain Jimmy John’s serves up another sproutbreak

By Mike Hornick, Staff Writer

An E. coli outbreak linked to sprouts served at the Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches chain has sickened 12 people in five states — about a year after the chain switched sprout varieties to guard against outbreaks.

Preliminary tests connect the illnesses to raw clover sprouts from Jimmy John’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In December 2010, a salmonella outbreak affecting 112 people in 18 states was linked by the CDC to Tiny Greens alfalfa sprouts eaten at Jimmy John’s.

Within a few weeks of the salmonella outbreak, Jimmy John’s dropped alfalfa sprouts from its menu in favor of clover sprouts. Chain founder Jimmy John Liautaud said then that clover sprout seeds are more easily cleaned than alfalfa, reducing the risk of contamination.

But William Keene, senior epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division, told The Packer at that time the company wouldn’t benefit from the switch.

“If Jimmy John’s switches to clover sprouts, we’ll start seeing a bunch of clover sprout outbreaks associated with Jimmy John’s,” Keene said in January 2011. “The problem is with sprouting, not whether it comes from this kind of seed or that kind of seed.”


Feb. 20

Packer Editorial

Sprout risk is too high

If the latest sprout outbreak is ultimately traced to Jimmy John’s, as it has been linked, Jimmy John’s has a huge consumer relations campaign ahead of it.

After all, the sandwich chain can’t claim it didn’t know sprouts could make its customers sick. About a year ago, Jimmy John’s recalled alfalfa sprouts after they sickened more than 100 of its diners, removed them from menus in several cities and switched from alfalfa to clover sprouts. ...

A year ago, an Oregon epidemiologist said clover sprouts were no safer than alfalfa and predicted a rise in clover sprout outbreaks if Jimmy John’s switched.

Unfortunately, he was right.


March 5

Sprouts Safety Alliance tackles risk-ridden item

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Government and research groups have established the Sprouts Safety Alliance to tackle what the Food and Drug Administration calls the “unique food safety risk” of sprouts

A $100,000 grant at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health established the alliance. It comes in the wake of an E. coli outbreak linked to clover sprouts on sandwiches at Jimmy Johns restaurants.

The alliance is composed of members from the FDA, local and state food protection agencies, the food industry, and academia, according to a news release.

Bob Sanderson, president of the International Sprout Growers Association and co-owner of Jonathan’s Sprouts Inc., Rochester, Mass., is on the alliance steering committee. He said he was happy that the public/private approach is being used.


April 30

Sprouts alliance gets off to slow start

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Two months after the announcement of its 12-month, $100,000 federal grant, the Sprout Safety Alliance has not issued any statements about its work and has not launched its website, which officials initially said would be up and running in March.


Nov. 5

Safety group plans fast action

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Concerns among some in the fresh sprout industry about public perception of their products and producers who are not using best practices have spurred the creation of a new trade association focusing on food safety.

A founder’s meeting of the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science is scheduled for Nov. 7.

The agenda includes a review and adoption of standards, said Steffanie Smith, co-owner of California Sprouts LLC, Rancho Cordova, Calif., and one of the organizers of the new group.

The group’s board of directors and bylaws are expected to be established at the meeting.

Other founding members of SASS include Hanover Foods Corp., Hanover, Pa., and Pearson Foods Corp., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Smith is immediate past chairwoman of Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.


Oct. 29

Sprouts out at Kroger

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

The Kroger Co., citing a “thorough, science-based” review, is no longer selling sprouts at any of its stores.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, the second-largest U.S. retailer behind Wal-Mart, is following in the footsteps of that retailer, which stopped selling sprouts in 2010.

“Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions,” Payton Pruett, Kroger’s vice president of food safety, said in an Oct. 19 news release. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Kroger family of stores will no longer sell fresh sprouts or procure other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts.”


Nov. 5

Jimmy John’s brings back sprouts

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Just as the country’s second-largest grocery retailer discontinued sales of fresh sprouts because of food safety concerns, restaurateur Jimmy John Liautaud reintroduced 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 home run 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, followed by a 16-week rollout to spread sprouts to Jimmy John’s restaurants nationwide.