Nearly 100 people have been hospitalized and hundreds became ill after consuming a lentil-based product from Daily Harvest, the Food and Drug Administration said, citing complaint reports, as more lawsuits have been filed against the popular vegan food company, including one on behalf of an infant who was breastfeeding.
As of Thursday, 96 hospitalizations and 277 illness events around the country had been reported to the FDA, the agency said on its website. The FDA is investigating complaints of “gastrointestinal illness and abnormal liver function” related to Daily Harvest’s "French Lentil & Leek Crumbles" frozen product. The FDA said the last report of someone becoming ill was July 9.
Daily Harvest initiated a voluntary recall of the product last month after customers began to complain of becoming sick. Some reported elevated liver enzymes, hospitalizations as well as gallbladder removal.
The company said this week that it is committed to finding answers and is doing comprehensive testing to rule out potential causes, but that “thorough scientific processes require extensive laboratory analysis.”
Two lawsuits were filed against the company and the product's manufacturer this week on behalf of two children, including a 4-month-old, who were said to have gotten sick from the product.
The baby and her mother became ill and were hospitalized after the mother ate the lentil-based product at the end of May and beginning of June, according to a lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.
Beginning May 25, the infant experienced vomiting, diarrhea, screaming and dark urine after her mother consumed the product and breastfed her, the lawsuit said.
After consuming the product again in June, the baby’s mother was hospitalized with extreme abdominal pain and gastrointestinal distress from June 8 to 15, the suit said.
At the time, the infant also began having symptoms including fever, vomiting and gastrointestinal distress, the suit said, adding the mother continued to breastfeed during her hospitalization on the advice of her doctors, who did not know the cause of her illness.
The infant was seen by a physician on June 24, where tests showed high liver enzymes and she was hospitalized on June 25 before being released the next day with ongoing testing and monitoring from experts, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit state that the infant “sustained serious personal injuries" and substantial medical expenses and “remains at risk for future health complications with significant damages.”
In a second lawsuit filed this week on behalf of a child, a father alleges his daughter became ill with symptoms including abdominal pain and elevated thyroid and liver enzyme levels. The lawsuit said a gastrointestinal and liver specialist told the girl the elevated liver enzymes could indicate a “potential lifelong, life-threatening illness” and that she could no longer participate in her soccer, the girl’s passion, because “an inflamed liver could lacerate while playing and be fatal." The child’s liver function is being monitored, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court for the Southern District of New York.
Bill Marler, an attorney representing the families in the lawsuits, said he has more than 250 clients in connection with the Daily Harvest complaints with potential claims against the company.
Marler said the FDA has been doing testing, as well as Daily Harvest. “I think everyone has sort of the same goal,” to find the contaminant that has made people ill, he said.
Daily Harvest said that so far, testing has ruled out common food-borne pathogens, major allergens, pesticide, Hepatitis A, norovirus, and a range of mycotoxins, including aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are a type of toxin produced by fungus that can grow on grains and seeds.
Daily Harvest said in a previous statement to NBC News that it does not comment on pending or potential litigation. Daily Harvest emphasized, however, that it initiated a recall as soon as it received reports of customer illnesses, is working with the FDA to investigate, and reached out multiple times to customers who bought the lentil product.
“Everyone who has been affected deserves an answer, and we are committed to making this right,” the company said at the time.
About 28,000 units of the product were distributed to consumers in the U.S. between April 28 and June 17, according to the company and the FDA.