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After more than a month of investigating, Daily Harvest CEO Rachel Drori announced Tuesday that the company identified the ingredient in its French Lentil + Leek Crumbles product that may have caused hundreds of people to get sick.
"At this time, we have identified tara flour as the cause of the issue," Drori said in an updated blog post. "We have only used this ingredient in French Lentil + Leek Crumbles and we are no longer sourcing from this producer who does not provide any ingredients for our 140+ other items."
Drori said the company's "extensive investigation" into what caused numerous people to fall severely ill after eating the French Lentil + Leek Crumbles product "involved many experts analyzing data from all sources."
DAILY HARVEST SUED AFTER CLAIMS THAT FRENCH LENTIL + LEEK CRUMBLES CAUSED SEVERE ILLNESSES
The investigation isn't over, either. Drori added Tuesday that the team of investigators will continue working with the "FDA, the tara flour producer and others to help determine what specifically made people sick."
The company, which focuses on offering convenient, sustainable and nourishing options, recalled the product on June 17 after many customers reported in a Reddit thread that they were hospitalized, in some cases multiple times, after suffering severe pain. Some people even reported having their gallbladder's removed.
DAILY HARVEST RECALLS FRENCH LENTIL, LEEK CRUMBLES FOLLOWING REPORTS OF SEVERE ILLNESSES
The company, which received approximately 470 reports of illness or adverse reactions from customers by late June, announced that it "immediately began a thorough, top-to-bottom investigation of our manufacturing facilities, food and supply chain."
It also began working with the FDA, state agencies and multiple independent labs, as well as experts in microbiology, food safety and toxicology to conduct testing.
However, many customers still took legal action.
Bill Marler, whose firm Marler Clark specializes in outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, already retained nearly 250 clients that are reporting similar symptoms, including complaints of severe abdominal or back pain.
"Nearly all report elevated liver tests showing acute liver failure. Many have been hospitalized (some repeatedly)," Marler announced in an updated post on his website. "There have been reports of a dozen liver biopsies and at least 25 gallbladder removals."
Until Tuesday, the company hadn't been able to identify the cause, although it was able to rule out certain processing issues or infections such as hepatitis A, norovirus, a range of mycotoxins, including aflatoxins, and food-borne pathogens.
Drori told customers in the company's latest update Tuesday that this was the "first and only time we’ve used tara flour, which has been available and used in the North American market as a plant-based source of protein prior to our use."
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Over the past month, the company continued testing sequencing and reviewed consumer reports and medical records, including an analysis by medical toxicologists and food safety experts.
Drori said "the data has repeatedly indicated that the issue is isolated to French Lentil + Leek Crumbles" and that customers can safely enjoy the rest of the company's products.
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"The testing process and investigation also validated the safety of our supply chain and manufacturing processes," Drori continued. "We are confident that we continue to uphold the highest standards for quality and safety."
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