The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are conducting an investigation into a multistate outbreak of E. coli infections that may be linked to a brand of frozen falafel sold by grocery chain ALDI, the agencies said Friday.
Twenty people have been reported to be infected with the E. coli strain O121 in six states, according to the CDC. Five people have been hospitalized, including one who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.
Fifteen of the 18 people interviewed by the CDC and FDA reported that they shop at ALDI and six of that group said they ate Earth Grown frozen falafel in the week before their symptoms arose.
ALDI recalled Earth Grown brand vegan traditional falafel and garlic & herb falafel from stores on Friday due to the possible presence of E. coli in the food.
“Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli is an organism that can cause foodborne illness in a person who eats a food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting,” wrote the FDA in a statement.
The majority of those with reported E. coli infections — 11 of the 20 — reside in Michigan, while four more live in Wisconsin, two in Florida and one each in Kansas, Iowa and Ohio. The falafel was sold in 38 states and the District of Columbia before being recalled.
“The true number of sick people in this outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” wrote the CDC.
“This is because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for E. coli. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.”
The current verified cases have onset dates reported between July 13 and September 13.