Daily Harvest Crumbles linked to major illnesses | Allen and Allen

Daily Harvest Crumbles linked to major illnesses

In late April, Daily Harvest announced the launch of its plant-based protein line: Crumbles. By June, consumers were complaining of illness; some even requiring hospitalization and surgery. 

Daily Harvest Crumbles

Photo credit: Daily Harvest

What illnesses are linked to Daily Harvest?

At the time of this publishing, there have been 470 reported illnesses. Many have complained of physical pain, but the issue has become more serious for certain consumers, whom have experienced liver dysfunction and hospitalization. At least 30 consumers had to have their gall bladders removed.  

Symptoms include: 

  • Fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • High liver enzyme levels 

What Daily Harvest products are linked to the foodborne illness?

In June, Daily Harvest recalled its French Lentil and Leek Crumbles, following a spate of complaints from their consumers. Working with the FDA, 28,000 units were recalled. Daily Harvest promised to launch an investigation and urged anyone in possession of the product to dispose of it. 

tara seeds on a tara tree

Photo credit: Silvateam

What is causing the foodborne illness in Daily Harvest?

The company made good on their promise to investigate, and CEO Rachel Drori has publicly identified tara flour as the cause of more than 470 reported illnesses. 

What is tara flour, and why is it making people sick?

Tara flour is a protein-packed seed from tara trees, which are native to Peru. In the U.S., it’s been in use for over a year as a plant-based protein. Tara gum is a different ingredient made from the same plant, and is more commonly used as a thickener or stabilizer in foods such as ice cream. 

“Because the reported symptoms have been so severe and so little is known, we’re advising people to avoid tara flour until we understand what is causing the illnesses, and until consumers can be assured that any products containing tara flour in the wider market are safe,” says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety and testing at Consumer Reports.  

Neither Daily Harvest nor the FDA has given insight on what specifically in the tara flour made consumers ill. The FDA has released a statement, assuring the public that they are working closely with Daily Harvest, conducting “extensive testing for numerous possible adulterants, including microbial and chemical contaminants.” They also noted that this process “takes time, and there are no guarantees the information available to the agency will demonstrate a definitive link between illnesses and foods.” 

Serena Williams and Gwenyth Paltrow

Photo credit: The Cut

What is Daily Harvest?

Backed by celebrity investors Serena Williams and Gwenyth Paltrow, it’s a subscription-based food company. Featuring frozen deliverables for people who wish to eat healthy but lack the time to prepare it, the company first launched in 2015. 

They have also confirmed that tara flour was only included in their French Lentil and Leek Crumbles, and not featured in their other products for sale, which total at about 140. 

Does the FDA regulate tara flour?

Tara flour is considered a food additive, and the FDA does have a formal approval process to review them.  

However, experts were unable to locate tara flour listed as a food additive by the FDA. “I can find no evidence that FDA ever reviewed tara flour for safety,” says Tom Neltner, senior director for safer chemicals at the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund.  

tara flour

In fact, there isn’t a lot of industry knowledge about tara flour in general.  “This substance hasn’t been in the U.S. food supply for long,” says Michael Hansen, a senior scientist for food policy. “There are gaps in the system that allow new additives to enter the market without going through any process. Unfortunately, that’s what may have happened here.” 

The U.S. also has a pathway known as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). It’s a voluntary industry repository of food additives, and it lists what is considered safe. The FDA has been questioned about whether or not tara has been listed as a GRAS ingredient, and if it has undergone any FDA safety testing. As of now, the FDA has not responded to these inquiries. 

In fact, a spokesperson has only remarked that the regulatory status of a food has no bearing if a contamination happens, in the case of a manufacturer failing to follow best practices.  

woman with stomach pain

What to do now

If you suspect that this unregulated food additive could be present in your diet, please do the following:  

  • Review the ingredient panels of packaged foods to check for the presence of tara flour. 
  • If you visit a restaurant, deli, or use a meal delivery service, ask whether any of its products contain tara flour.  
  • If you feel symptoms arise shortly after consuming a food product containing tara flour or protein, contact your physician. 
  • Or, if your condition worsens or is severe, seek medical attention immediately.  

If you experience an illness you think could be related to something you ate, it’s always a good idea to report it to your state health department or to the federal government through its form on foodsafety.gov. 

If you or a loved one have suffered a foodborne illness due to the negligence of another, the experienced foodborne illness attorneys at Allen & Allen can determine whether or not you are entitled to compensation. Call today for a free consultation and discuss your unique experience at 866-388-1307.