Public-health officials in Kansas are investigating an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in approximately 110 people in Garden City, Kan., believed to originate from a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches location.

According to a news release from the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the organization’s Food Safety and Lodging program has conducted an inspection of the restaurant and has cooperated with Jimmy John’s employees to respond to the situation.

As of press time, a Jimmy John’s spokesperson had not responded to a request for comment.

“We are suspecting that this outbreak has been caused by norovirus,” D. Charles Hunt, the state epidemiologist with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in a statement. He added that they suspect norovirus based on the period of time between when the meals were eaten and when typical norovirus symptoms were reported, including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and muscle aches.

The state organizations and the Finney County Health Department have set up an online survey for any customers who ate at the Garden City Jimmy John’s restaurant between Dec. 10 and Dec. 24 to check for norovirus symptoms.

The outbreak in Kansas follows an investigation of three Denver-area Jimmy John’s restaurants in November, in which an unspecified produce item served at those locations was suspected of causing eight people to be stricken with E. coli. Those restaurants remained open because the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment determined that employees’ food-handling practices were not to blame.

Over the past five years, the Champaign, Ill.-based restaurant chain has been implicated in several foodborne-illness outbreaks, typically resulting from clover or alfalfa sprouts served on some of the brand’s sandwiches.

Prior to the Denver-area incident last month, Jimmy John’s had been linked to a five-state E. coli outbreak in February 2012 in which 12 people became ill and resulted in the chain pulling clover sprouts from its menu. An 88-person outbreak of salmonella in December 2010 implicated Jimmy John’s, as did an October 2008 outbreak of stomach ailments in 16 people in Boulder, Colo., nine of whom later confirmed cases of E. coli.

Jimmy John’s operated or franchised more than 1,560 locations in the United States at the end of fiscal 2012, according to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 100 report.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN