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FDA: Jimmy John's veggies linked to E. coli, salmonella outbreaks

The outbreaks have been going on for the past seven years.
/ Source: TODAY

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent popular sandwich chain Jimmy John's a warning letter after investigating and finding several E. coli and salmonella outbreaks started with vegetables served at their restaurants.

In the letter, officials said the chain has both received and sold "adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers" for years.

The company also "has not demonstrated implementation of long-term sustainable corrections to its supply chain to assure the safety of ingredients used in its products," the FDA said in the letter.

"Jimmy John's restaurants have been implicated in multiple outbreaks that have spanned the past seven years and impacted consumers in no fewer than 17 states," said FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas in a news release that was issued on Tuesday.

The president of Jimmy John's, James North, confirmed to TODAY the company has now removed sprouts from all of its locations. Jimmy John's has more than 2,800 locations in 43 states.

"Food safety is our top priority ... This removal (of sprouts) was out of an abundance of caution and was not initiated by any known, immediate threat," North said in a statement emailed to TODAY.

This is not the first time the sandwich chain has made headlines over cleanliness concerns.

The company was in the news last year after a delivery driver appeared to put his mouth on a customer's drink before handing it over in Chicago.

The FDA said salmonella outbreaks connected to vegetables from the chain have been reported in states including Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin; E. coli outbreaks connected to the restaurant have cropped up in California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Utah, Washington, Colorado and other states.

Both contaminants can lead to serious issues in adults and children. Bacteria E. coli can often cause diarrhea, but urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia can also result, according to the CDC. Salmonella can lead to diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and sometimes hospitalization, the CDC said on its website.