April 5 (UPI) -- Federal health and agriculture officials said Friday they're investigating an E. coli outbreak that's sickened 72 people across five states.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the illnesses began between March 2 and March 29, and the ill range in age from 1 to 74. Officials have yet to pinpoint the cause or a common source of the infection.
The CDC, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and Food and Drug Administration, are investigating to determine the specific food item, grocery store or restaurant chain that may be the source.
Among those sickened, eight have been hospitalized. The outbreak appeared to be centered in the Southeast -- Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. Most reported illnesses were in Kentucky.
E. coli infection can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. In children and older adults, it can cause life-threatening kidney failure.
A January report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found a 10 percent increase in food recalls over the past five years. The organization blamed "archaic laws" that allow producers to sell meat that tests positive for salmonella and said some recalls could have been prevented.