Daily Harvest sees first trial in lentil scare crumbles

An Oklahoma woman filed a product liability and personal injury lawsuit against Daily Harvest on Monday after nearly 500 people were reportedly sickened by the company’s French lentil and leek crumbs, a part of menu launched at the end of April.

Daily Harvest – which sells vegan-friendly smoothies, bowls, flatbreads and other foods that are shipped direct to consumers – appears to have been caught off guard amid reports of people who say they have suffered from serious liver problems and gallbladder after eating the lentil crumbles.

Some customers have raised concerns about possible cross-contamination, although the company said on Monday the problems were limited to lens crumbs, which it had withdrawn from the market. Others are unhappy with the way the company has chosen to communicate and the language it has chosen.

In the meantime, Daily Harvest said it was working tirelessly to uncover the source of the foodborne illness, which remains a mystery after 10 days of working in cooperation with the US Food and Drug Administration.

Carol Ready, the plaintiff in the new lawsuit, said in an interview Monday, “I ate the crumbs twice, unfortunately. Both times, within 48 hours, I was in the emergency room.

Ready’s problems, however, went beyond the gastrointestinal distress that sent her to the emergency room. Finding nothing wrong with her except extremely high levels of liver enzymes, her doctors performed a hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) test, which uses a kind of radioactive dye to diagnose liver problems. , bile ducts and gallbladder. They found a problem in the last one.

Ready had her gallbladder removed on June 22, just days after a friend referred her to a Reddit forum and posts on Twitter about the voluntary recall of Daily Harvest products.

“It still hasn’t changed anything for me,” the 29-year-old Tulsa woman said. “The dysfunction was there. The damage was done. »

‘We were held up by nearly 75 people, most with stories almost identical to Ms. Ready’s,’ attorney William D. Marler told The Times on Monday. His firm, Marler Clark, is handling the Ready case. “We have asked all customers to contact the FDA directly to share their symptoms. We are in the process of testing nearly two dozen remaining products to determine which ingredients in these products would cause such severe symptoms.

Daily Harvest, meanwhile, said in a statement on Monday: “All those who have been affected deserve a response, and we are committed to addressing it.”

About 28,000 packages of French lentil and leek crumbles were produced between April 28 and June 17, according to the company. They mostly shipped to subscribers who ordered them, with a smaller number distributed via an outlet in Chicago and a pop-up store in May in Los Angeles.

Since launching in late April, “consumption of defendant’s products has caused a range of serious health complications, from gastrointestinal illnesses to liver and gallbladder dysfunctions,” said Marler, who litigates cases involving foodborne illnesses since 1993.

Daily Harvest, which markets itself with the promise of sustainably sourced fruits and vegetables, first posted information about its recall via social media. Then he sent emails to customers on June 17 and 19 that mentioned “gastrointestinal discomfort” but said nothing about liver or gallbladder issues specifically. The first email also included a reminder that the crumbs should be cooked.

On Friday, the New York-based company sent out a press release saying it had received 470 illness reports related to the crumbs and said it was working with the FDA to resolve the issue. On Monday, Daily Harvest went into more detail while noting in a statement that it did not comment on “ongoing or potential litigation”.

“We have contacted consumers who received the product directly several times, asking them to dispose of it and not eat it,” the statement continued.

“In parallel, we launched an investigation to identify the root cause, in close collaboration with the FDA, several independent laboratories and an expert panel including microbiologists, toxin and pathogen experts and allergists. All results on pathogens and toxicology have come back negative so far, but we’re continuing to do extensive testing so we can get to the bottom of it.

Daily Harvest is for customers who are interested in healthy, whole foods; people like Amber Orley, 42, who lives in a suburb of Cleveland and is also in contact with the Marler Clark law firm. She started ordering from the company after being diagnosed with a number of food allergies and said the meal service saved her time and kept her fed safely while she prepared regular meals for her husband and two sons.

“I trusted them with my health,” she said.

After storing the lentil crumbs in her freezer for a month as she worked her way through a bag of Daily Harvest’s companion product, walnut and thyme crumbs, Orley said she cooked some early June and put them in tacos, as the company had suggested.

“I probably cooked them longer than suggested,” Orley said, as she added sweet potatoes which required more cooking time. The tacos were, she says, “delicious.”

Amber Orley holds her pack of Daily Harvest French lentil and leek crumbs.

(Amber Orley)

But she paid for it over the next few days, with significant abdominal pain and a 102 degree fever. Eventually, Orley went to see her doctor and lab tests revealed blood in her urine as well as high levels of bilirubin, a substance that passes through the liver.

The next day, after receiving lab results showing extremely high liver enzymes, Orley said, his doctor told him to go to the emergency room immediately. Extensive ER tests — including an ultrasound, CT scan, hepatitis check and other blood tests — showed nothing wrong except liver enzymes, Orley said, so she was sent home. her with orders to follow her own doctor.

On June 19, Orley received an email from Daily Harvest telling her to throw out the lentil and leek crumbs, but she noted that it only contained a general reference to gastrointestinal symptoms. She filled out a survey at the company’s request and said she had included her ER test results in hopes they could cover her medical bills.

Finally, last week, a friend who works in the health field brought to Orley’s attention the stories that were dating several people alleging symptoms exactly like his. “My jaw hit the ground,” she said. Everyone was recounting similar symptoms that went beyond what she considers generic gastrointestinal distress.

If I had had this information earlier, she wondered aloud, would my treatment have been different? Could I have provided this information to my doctors? She also noted that she only had one serving of crumble and her digestive system was still healing, weeks later. “My body is not well.”

A third woman, Sarah Schacht of Seattle, wryly noted in an interview Monday that she was likely Marler Clark’s only regular customer, having been affected by the E. coli from Jack in the Box in the early 1990s when she was a young teenager.

“The irony that I get caught up in the Daily Harvest situation doesn’t escape me,” the 42-year-old said. Schacht, a government innovation consultant, also considers herself a “citizen food safety advocate” who worked to get restaurant inspection ratings published in Seattle. “The only oddity is that I speak from my experience, and I know what happened to me.”

Schacht participated in a long COVID study as part of a control group and therefore underwent regular and extensive blood tests. Then, for about a month and a half, his liver enzyme levels returned to an all-time high. This was consistent with the fact that she had felt sick from time to time during the same period, she said.

“Daily Harvest was about 75% of the food I ate for months,” Schacht said. She said she realized she ate “something or something for a long period of time” that made her feel sick. She found others online complaining of the same symptoms, including massive stomach cramps and freezing hands and feet, but no fever.

Schacht also went to the ER because of her liver scans and had a similar experience to the other women: CT scans, more scans, no response. She said her doctors were now trying to work out what kind of contamination might be involved and who was causing the ‘strange cluster of symptoms’ discussed among those affected.

“We are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week on this. You deserve answers,” Daily Harvest chief executive Rachel Drori said in a statement Monday. posted on social media and on the company’s website. She said after 10 days of working with the FDA, the company has yet to find the cause of the problem.

“I also want to reassure you that this problem is limited to [the crumbles] and does not affect any of our other 100 menu items,” she said. “I recognize it’s so frustrating. I’m incredibly frustrated.

She also outlined the measures that are being taken, including an investigation into the manufacturing facilities used by the company, as well as its food and supply chain.

“We continue to eat and feed our families with all of our products,” Drori said, “and you can safely do the same.”

Chicago’s Melissa Mizwa said she had no positive or negative feelings about Daily Harvest when she signed up for the service in May.

On the contrary, she was attracted by the discount offered on her first order.

That order contained lentil and leek crumbs, the 42-year-old said on Monday. She, too, went through the circles of pain, discomfort, nausea, urgent care, and ultimately an emergency room visit. She moved past the constant itching and nausea and said her hepatologist was encouraged by her “slow and gradual improvement.”

But she is now very disappointed with Daily Harvest’s response. A little insulted too, she said. “They are so far behind. They started with, ‘You’re doing it wrong,'” she said, referring to the initial reminder to cook the crumbs.

She also believes Daily Harvest was “playing down and hiding” the seriousness of the reports and could have looked at other recent recalls to see how to handle one properly, instead of misleading those affected.

“I’m grateful for social media in this case,” Mizwa said, “because otherwise how would we have found each other?”

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