Once a standard topping on six of the chain’s sandwiches, the sprouts returned to menus Friday as an optional addition. Ordering them online requires the purchaser to acknowledge the health risks of consumption.
A corporate representative confirmed sprouts will soon return to all other stores chain-wide.
In 2012, then human biology junior Alexsandra Shalayko contracted E. coli after eating a Turkey Tom sandwich and was hospitalized for three days.
Shalayko filed a lawsuit against Jimmy John’s for damages related to the E. coli infection that hospitalized her. The lawsuit ended in an undisclosed settlement.
Shalayko said in a past interview with The State News that she filed the lawsuit to ensure it wouldn’t happen to others. When contacted, Shalayko could not give additional comment per the settlement agreement.
Bill Marler, the attorney who represented Shalayko, said sprouts are a problematic garnish many commercial businesses tend to avoid.
“The fact that you’ve got big retailers not selling them in grocery stores speaks volumes to the risks,” Marler said. “I’m always surprised that restaurants put these on their food.”
The risk of illness comes from the environment they’re processed in and the difficulty of decontaminating the seeds, food science and human nutrition professor Elliot Ryser said.
When the seeds sprout, they’re tumbled together in a warm moist environment in a large drum, a breeding ground for bacteria.
Although not all bacteria are a threat, he said if any of the seeds are contaminated with E. coli, the tumbling process spreads it to non-infected sprouts. “There’s really no precaution you can take,” Ryser said. “There’s a risk in everything that one consumes and sprouts are one of the riskiest products out there.”