Daily Harvest sees first lawsuit in lentil crumbles scare

An Oklahoma woman filed a product liability and personal injury lawsuit against Daily Harvest on Monday after nearly 500 people were allegedly sickened by the company’s shredded French lentils and leeks, a delicacy Released at the end of April.

Daily Harvest – which sells vegan-friendly smoothies, bowls, flatbreads and other foods shipped directly to consumers – appears to have been caught red-handed amid reports from people saying that they suffered serious liver and gallbladder problems after consuming lentil flakes .

Some customers have raised concerns about possible cross-contamination, although the company said Monday that the problem is limited to the lentil crumbs it pulls from the market. Others are not satisfied with the way the company has chosen to communicate and with the language the company has chosen.

Meanwhile, Daily Harvest says it is working non-stop to find the source of the foodborne illness, which remains a mystery after 10 days of work in partnership with the Food Administration and United States Pharmaceuticals.

Carol Ready, the plaintiff in the new lawsuit, said Monday in an interview, “Unfortunately, I ate bread crumbs twice. Both times, within 48 hours, I had to go to the emergency room.”

However, Ready’s problems went beyond the stomach ache that sent her to the emergency room. Finding nothing abnormal in her except for extremely high levels of liver enzymes, her doctors performed an iminodiacetic acid tomography (HIDA) scan of the liver, which uses a radioactive dye to diagnose problems. liver, 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 directed her to a Reddit forum and posted on Twitter talking about the voluntary Daily Harvest product recall.

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

“We were held back by almost 75 people, most of whom had stories that closely resembled Ms. Ready,” attorney William D. Marler told The Times on Monday. His company, Marler Clark, is handling Ready’s 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 over-the-counter products to determine which ingredients in these products can cause such severe symptoms.”

Meanwhile, Daily Harvest said in a statement Monday, “All those affected deserve an answer, and we are committed to getting this right.”

About 28,000 packages of French lentils and leeks were produced between April 28 and June 17, according to the company. They were primarily shipped to subscribers who ordered, with a smaller number being distributed through a retail location in Chicago and a May pop-up store in Los Angeles.

Since their launch in late April, “consumption of defendant’s products has resulted in a range of serious health complications ranging from gastrointestinal disease to liver and gallbladder dysfunction,” says Marler. , who has been litigating cases related to foodborne illness since 1993.

Daily Harvest, a marketing company with the promise of sustainably sourced fruits and vegetables, first posted information about the recall via social media. It then emailed customers on June 17 and June 19 mentioning “gastrointestinal discomfort” but said nothing about liver or gallbladder problems specifically. The first email also includes a reminder that it needs to be cooked.

On Friday, the New York-based company sent out a press release saying it had received 470 reports of illness related to the wreckage and said it was working with the FDA to find the problem. subject. On Monday, Daily Harvest went into more detail while also noting in a statement that it does not comment on “pending or potential litigation.”

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

“In parallel, we conducted an investigation to determine the root cause, working closely with the FDA, multiple independent laboratories, and an expert team that included microbiologists, toxin and pathogen specialists as well as allergists. So far, all the results for pathogens and toxins have been negative, but we are continuing to conduct extensive testing so we can delve deeper into this.”

Daily Harvest attracts customers interested in healthy, whole foods; people like Amber Orley, 42, live in suburban Cleveland and are also connected to the law firm Marler Clark. She started ordering from the company after being diagnosed with several food allergies and says the meal service saves her time and keeps her eating safely while she prepares her regular meals. for her husband and two sons.

“I trust my health to them,” she said.

After keeping shredded lentils in her freezer for a month while she prepped through a bag of Daily Harvest companion produce, walnuts and thyme, Orley said she cooked some in early June and put them in banh tet, as the company suggested.

“I probably cooked them longer than suggested,” says Orley, because she added sweet potatoes that take longer to cook. “Delicious,” she said.

One hand holds an opened plastic package of organic food

Amber Orley holds a packet of French leeks and lentils from Daily Harvest.

(Amber Orley)

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

The next day, after receiving test results showing extremely high liver enzymes, Orley said, her doctor told her to go to the emergency room immediately. Orley said that comprehensive testing in the ER – including an ultrasound, CT scan, hepatitis check and more blood tests – showed nothing abnormal except for liver enzymes, so she was sent home with a good condition. Follow up with your own doctor.

On June 19, Orley received an email from Daily Harvest asking her to throw out lentils and leeks, but she noted that it only contained general reference information about digestive symptoms. She filled out a survey requested by the company and said she included her test results from the emergency room in the hope that they could cover her medical bills. .

Finally, last week, a friend who works in healthcare turned Orley’s attention to the stories that came out with many people claiming to have identical symptoms to her. “My jaw hit the floor,” she said. Everyone related similar symptoms that had occurred before which she considered common gastrointestinal distress.

“Would I have had this information sooner,” she wondered aloud, “would my treatment be different? Can I give that information to my doctors? She also noted that she only ate a portion of bread crumbs, and that her digestive system was still recovering, a few weeks later. “My body is not fine.”

A third woman, Sarah Schacht of Seattle, wittily noted in an interview Monday that she may be Marler Clark’s only repeat customer, having been affected by Jack during the outbreak E. coli bacteria in Box in the early 1990s, when she was a teenager.

The 42-year-old said: “The irony of when I got caught up in a Daily Harvest situation didn’t escape me. Schacht, a government innovation consultant, also considers himself a “citizen advocate for food safety” who worked to get Seattle restaurant inspection ratings. “The only weird thing is that I’m talking about my experience, and I know what happened to me.”

Schacht participated in a lengthy COVID study as part of a control group and therefore received frequent, extensive blood tests. Then, in about a month and a half, her liver enzyme levels were back to off-character highs. That corresponds to her feeling sick consistently for the same amount of time, she said.

“Daily Harvest was like 75% of the food I ate in months,” says Schacht. She said she realized she had been eating “something or something for a long time” that made her sick. She saw others online complaining of similar symptoms, including severe abdominal pain and freezing cold hands and feet but no fever.

Schacht also had to go to the emergency room because of her liver lab and had the same experience as other women: CT scans, more labs, no answers. She said her doctors are now trying to figure out what kind of contamination could be linked to the “strange cluster of symptoms” being discussed among those who have been affected.

“We are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week on this. You deserve an answer,” Daily Harvest CEO Rachel Drori said Monday in a statement posted on social media and on the company’s website. She said, after 10 days of working with the FDA, the company still has not found the cause of the problem.

“I also want to reassure you that this problem is limited to [the crumbles] and doesn’t affect any of the more than 100 other items on our menu,” she said. “I admit this is frustrating. I am extremely frustrated.”

She also described steps being taken, including an investigation into the manufacturing facilities the company uses, as well as its food and supply chain.

“We’re still eating and providing our family with all of our products,” says Drori, “and they’re safe for you to do so.”

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

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

The 42-year-old said on Monday that order included shredded lentils and leeks. She also went through rounds of pain, discomfort, nausea, urgent care, and eventually an ER visit. She overcame the constant itching and nausea and said her hepatologist was encouraged by the “slow, gradual improvement”.

But now she is very disappointed by Daily Harvest’s response. She said she was also slightly offended. “They are far behind. They lead with, “You’re doing it wrong,” she said, referring to the initial reminder to cook the crumbs.

She also alleges that Daily Harvest has “downplayed and concealed” the seriousness of the reports and may have looked at other recent recalls to see how to handle it reasonably, rather than misleadingly. wrong for those affected.

“I am grateful for social media in this case,” says Mizwa, “because otherwise how could we find each other?” Daily Harvest sees first lawsuit in lentil crumbles scare

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