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As Daily Harvest probes why so many customers got sick, an L.A.-area case is reported

The Daily Harvest lentil-crumbles situation has reared its head in the Los Angeles area and on the FDA’s website.

“In mid-June DPH received one complaint of foodborne illness related to the consumption of a Daily Harvest meal,” a spokesperson for the L.A. County Department of Public Health said Wednesday via email. No further details were provided.

Daily Harvest, a vegan-friendly meal service that ships frozen products to its subscribers, said in a June 23 release that it has been working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine the source of severe adverse effects reported by people who consumed its French lentil and leek crumbles. The company announced a voluntary recall of the product on June 17.

On Wednesday, the FDA appeared to add the Daily Harvest situation to its list of “outbreak and adverse event investigations,” though it did not call out the company by name. Instead, Investigation No. 1076 linked to “Frozen Food” noted the receipt of 107 adverse-event reports so far and indicated that a recall, on-site inspections, sample collection and analysis had been initiated, as well as efforts to trace the cause of the outbreak back to its source.

It categorized the outbreak as “ongoing.”

“Although the FDA does not out Daily Harvest by name, over the last week I have directed over 100 people to report their illnesses to the FDA,” food-safety attorney Bill Marler wrote Wednesday on his law firm’s blog. He said he was in contact with at least 125 people reporting “nearly identical” symptoms and said cases have been reported in at least 26 states.

“Collectively, their liver function tests were extremely elevated. Some have dropped and some have not,” Marler wrote. “At [least] 20 people have endured their gallbladder being removed. All are worried about the long-term impacts on their health by an ingredient causing the illness, that to date has not been determined after extensive blood work, imaging and live biopsies.”

Marler’s firm represents customer Ann Cleary of Tulsa, Okla., who on Monday became the first person to sue Daily Harvest over the crumbles.

“I recognize this is so frustrating. I am incredibly frustrated,” Daily Harvest Chief Executive Rachel Drori said Monday in a press release that detailed the company’s interactions with the FDA and other agencies since June 17.

The company has been “working with the FDA, state agencies and multiple independent labs, as well as experts in microbiology, food safety and toxicology to conduct testing. These tests cover common foodborne pathogens, toxins and allergens. Results thus far have all come back negative. At this point, despite consulting with numerous experts, cooperating with FDA’s investigation, working with our supply chain, and conducting extensive testing, we have not yet identified a cause,” the statement said.

Daily Harvest has directed customers who would like to report adverse reactions to email [email protected] or call (888) 302-0305 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time, seven days a week. Reports can also be made to the FDA or to local health departments.

The crumbles, which also come in a walnut-and-thyme variety that has not been linked to ill effects, are a plant-based meat alternative that can be used in tacos or sprinkled on flatbreads, for example. The products were introduced April 28.

About 28,000 units of the lentil crumbles were distributed via mail at a retail location in Chicago and at a pop-up in L.A. in late May. A small number were also given out as promotional samples to social-media influencers. The company said last week that thus far it had received 470 complaints of adverse effects.

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