Hi, we're Daniella and Shelby, and like many others, we decided to subscribe to Daily Harvest during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Here's Shelby's freezer for proof:
Daily Harvest is a meal delivery service known for its frozen smoothies, harvest bowls, flatbreads, and other quick eats that are packed with fruits and vegetables. For people like us who don't love to cook — and try our best to opt for produce instead of Hot Cheetos once in a while — Daily Harvest was honestly a great solution.
But recent stories from various customers — who say they've become severely ill from a new Daily Harvest product — have both of us floating our mouses above the "unsubscribe" button. The product in question is the "French Lentil + Leek Crumbles," which is a plant-based meat alternative they launched in April. They've recalled the item, and this is what it currently shows on their website:
We first learned about this health (and PR) crisis when a TikTok by Abby Silverman — the digital creative director at Cosmopolitan — came across our For You pages. In her video, she said she received a PR package about a month ago from Daily Harvest that had the lentil crumbles inside. The following day, she went to the hospital for "severe stomach and gastro pain," but they couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong with her. She had elevated liver levels, bacteria in her ear, and the symptoms of a UTI, so they put her on antibiotics and sent her home. After a five-day period of antibiotics, her pain returned with a vengeance, and she had a 100.8-degree fever. When she went back to the hospital, she still had extremely elevated liver levels, but they could not find the cause.
The TikTok wraps up with her saying she received an email from Daily Harvest's PR department, which advised her to throw away the leek crumbles, due to reports of customers falling ill after ingesting them. After combing through a Reddit thread about the crumbles, she realized that dozens of people were having scarily similar — and in some cases, even more severe — experiences as her after eating them. Here are a few of the comments:
"Three weeks ago I went to the ER with extreme stomach pain and high fever after eating Daily Harvest crumbles. After a week of severe fatigue, complete loss of appetite, nausea, and itchy skin, I was told my liver enzymes were extremely elevated, and sent to a gastro specialist who diagnosed me with acute hepatitis of an unknown origin."
"I ate the crumbles Wednesday night and woke up Thursday morning with severe abdominal and upper back pain. I also ended up in the emergency room. My bilirubin levels were also elevated. The doctor also could not figure it out and thought I maybe had an ulcer. I was discharged with medication and did not figure it out until I got the generic email from Daily Harvest."
"I was in the hospital for 5 days, had elevated liver enzymes, and am still not recovered. My levels were slowly coming down when I was in the hospital, but they could not figure out why they were up. All of the other blood work I had, CT scans, and ultrasounds came back okay."
But the stories didn't stop at stomach pain and elevated liver levels. There were also various people commenting that they had to have their gallbladder removed. Yes, an entire organ, REMOVED. Here's user LukeWesPear's story:
"I HAD TO HAVE MY GALLBLADDER REMOVED!!! DH sent me a PR package with their crumbles a little over a month ago, but I didn’t first try them until May 29. I made the lentil + leek crumbles and ate them on top of a flatbread. Within an hour, I had a horrible all-over stomachache. Nothing made it better. I tried to just go to sleep for the night. The next morning, it was mostly resolved. I didn’t have any issues again until June 6 — the second time I ate the lentil + leek crumbles on another flatbread. Within an hour, I had that same all-over stomach pain, fever, and chills. Over the next two days, my symptoms worsened and I went to the doctor to get tests done. They ruled out COVID, mono, UTI, kidney stones, the flu, and more. My bilirubin was extremely elevated and my liver enzymes were UNREAL — in the 400, 500, and 700s! I had the worst bilateral low back pain of my entire life...
"...I couldn’t lay down flat at all. My wife had to help me stand up and sit down while grimacing in extreme pain. My doctor sent me for a CT scan the next day. The fever and chills continued. On the 5th day of symptoms, I went to the ER because jaundice had started. They ran more and more blood tests and did a MRCP (special MRI test) on me, admitted me to the hospital, and scheduled me for surgery to get my gallbladder out. I haven’t even had so much as a cold in seven years until this happened. I am as healthy as can be, and now can pinpoint the start of all of this to eating the DH crumbles and flatbread. My life is changed forever now…I had to have an organ removed!!!"
After stumbling across Abby's TikTok, 32-year-old Jenna Dargenzio realized that she finally had a plausible explanation for the month of hell she had just endured. She also posted a video about the decline of her health following the ingestion of the crumbles.
"I have never woken up in so much pain in my entire life," Jenna says in the video. On screen, she shares all of the health complications and procedures she's dealt with since eating the crumbles, which include (but are not limited to) ER visits, a urinary tract infection, CT scans, and an ultrasound. A week later, Jenna's husband ate the crumbles and also got sick. "His issues were a little different, but it was [still] liver related."
We reached out to Jenna for more information on her situation. She said that although she's had some previous gastrointestinal issues due to having a sensitive stomach, she'd never experienced anything like this before. "This is beyond just tummy aches...it was much, much more severe than anything I experienced in the past."
Jenna told BuzzFeed she ate the lentil crumbles for dinner one evening, and "by about 5 a.m., I was in excruciating pain, throwing up, and by 6 a.m. I was waiting in the ER. As I was bedridden the following week, my husband was eating the leftovers. His symptoms were similar, however his pain was more mild and he experienced different symptoms such as severe itching due to elevated liver enzymes."
"We were both bedridden for about a solid week and slowly, slowly tried to return to some sense of normalcy," Jenna explained. "We missed a lot of work as well. It has created a lot of stress in our day-to-day life, because on top of health concerns, we have accumulated THOUSANDS of dollars in medical bills."
In all the chaos that's transpired, Jenna hasn't had any communication with Daily Harvest other than a "generic email" they sent her a few days ago. "I didn't respond," she said.
When Daniella (co-author of this article) tried to reach out for comment on Daily Harvest's chat feature, there was a 15-minute delay, and then she was met with a bizarre response from the "Care Team."
BuzzFeed did receive a response from them addressing the customers' ailments, and although they didn't reply to the specific questions we asked, they provided this statement that's on their website and includes the following info:
"We launched an investigation to identify the root cause of the health issues being reported. We’re working closely with the FDA and with multiple independent labs to investigate this. We are working with a group of experts to help us get to the bottom of this — that includes microbiologists, toxin and pathogen experts as well as allergists.
All pathogen and toxicology results have come back negative so far, but we’re continuing to do extensive testing and will keep you updated.
We are in touch directly with customers who reported adverse reactions and are collecting data to further the investigation, as well as offering refunds."