Health officials in Washington are advising the public not to eat raw clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, LLC of Idaho as the sprouts may be linked to seven confirmed and three probable cases of E. coli O121 illnesses in Washington and Idaho.
Five cases were reported in Spokane County, two in King County, and three in Kootenai County, Idaho. Five of those patients were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.
The initial investigation shows a strong link to eating raw clover sprouts produced by Idaho producer and the outbreak. Sprouts were eaten in sandwiches at several food establishments including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches locations in King and Spokane counties, as well as two Pita Pit locations in Spokane County, and Daanen’s Deli as well as a Jimmy John’s location in Kootenai County. The restaurants where the cases reported eating raw clover sprouts have voluntarily suspended serving sprouts.
“We advise people not to eat raw clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts until further notice,” said Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “If you have these products at home, you should throw them out.”
While the outbreak appears to be linked to clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts in Idaho, the source of the sprout seed hasn’t yet been determined and remains under investigation. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.
The producer also distributed sprouts around the northwest to other restaurants, as well as retail grocery stores where consumers may buy them for home consumption.
The type of E. coli in this outbreak is a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC O121) similar to E. coli O157:H7. It can cause bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting. It can sometimes result in severe, life-threatening illness and may be fatal.
“Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating contaminated sprouts should consult their health care provider,” said Lofy. “The elderly and very young children are more likely to become severely ill from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection.”
Eating raw sprouts is a known risk of exposure to Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 and has been the cause of numerous outbreaks here and abroad. Various sprouts, including radish, mung beans, and alfalfa, have been linked to outbreaks of Salmonella infections in several countries, as well as other infections such as E. coli O157:H7. The largest outbreak took place in Japan in 1996, where 6000 people got sick and 17 people died after eating radish sprouts contaminated with E. coli.
Sprouts are the germinating form of seeds and beans and are frequently eaten raw in sandwiches and salads. Past sprout-related outbreaks of foodborne illness have been linked to seeds contaminated by fecal materials in the field, during storage, or as a result of poor hygienic practices in the production of sprouts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following advice to consumers concerning raw sprouts:
• Children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
• Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking thoroughly kills the harmful bacteria.
• Request that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant or delicatessen, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added.
• Persons who think they might have become ill from eating potentially contaminated sprouts should consult their health care providers.