Daily Harvest Crumbles promotional image. | Daily Harvest
Consumers are claiming the company’s new plant-based protein sent them to the hospital
In late April, Daily Harvest — a celebrity-backed food brand that’s popular on social media for its ready-to-blend smoothies and other frozen foods — announced the launch of its plant-based protein line called Crumbles, which come in walnut and thyme and French lentil and leek varieties. As of this weekend, Daily Harvest has recalled its French lentil and leek crumbles following a spate of alarming customer reports. Daily Harvest announced in its recall statement that it will be launching an investigation into the lentil crumbles and advises anyone with a bag to dispose of them and not eat them. “Our mission has always been to take care of food so food can take care of you. That means quality, safety, and transparency are and always will be our top priorities,” the company wrote.
Across social media, Daily Harvest consumers are sharing stories of physical pain and hospitalizations after eating the lentil crumbles. Here’s what you should know about the situation, especially if you’ve got a package at home.
What’s going on?
A week ago, the Daily Harvest subreddit, an otherwise fairly inactive group for discussing smoothie recommendations and delivery gripes, began filling up with stories about people experiencing stomach pain, fevers, and gallbladder and liver problems after eating the lentil crumbles; the post, in which people are sharing symptoms, currently has over 400 comments.
The conversation extended onto other social media platforms. Via Instagram, one early tester, content creator Luke Wesley Pearson, claims that after trying Daily Harvest’s lentils on two separate occasions, he had extreme gastrointestinal distress that led to hospitalization, a series of medical tests, and gallbladder removal surgery. Several commenters on Pearson’s posts also allege they experienced gastrointestinal issues after eating the product.
Creative director Abigail Silverman shared her experience in a widely viewed TikTok, alleging she experienced “elevated liver levels” and liver issues that have continued a month after eating the crumbles. Silverman explained that despite a battery of tests, doctors have been unable to identify the specific cause of the issue. “I have had to adjust my entire life the past month to deal with this,” Silverman said in her video.
After the allegations began, Daily Harvest was still promoting the crumbles on Instagram, prompting some users to say that the company hadn’t acted quickly enough. It has since updated the captions on posts featuring the crumbles to direct followers to the Daily Harvest website, where they can read about the recall, but it has not posted anything else addressing the situation.
What is Daily Harvest?
Started in 2015, Daily Harvest offers plant-based, gluten-free, and dairy-free food products through a subscription model, boasting a commitment to “a better food system, one that prioritizes human and planetary health.” This mission has earned the brand popularity among social media influencers and celebrity investors including Serena Williams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaun White, and Bobby Flay. “I’m so impressed with Daily Harvest’s quality and approach to good living and healthful eating that I literally begged the founders to let me invest,” Flay told Fortune in 2017. By and large, Daily Harvest has been considered a food startup success story: It brought in over $250 million of revenue in five years and was valued at $1.1 billion this past November, putting founder Rachel Drori on Forbes’ 2022 list of America’s richest self-made women.
What’s causing the reported illnesses?
The cause remains unclear. While lentils contain lectin, a protein that can cause digestive problems, that’s generally only an issue with raw or uncooked lentils. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “it is important to remember that eating foods with a high amount of active lectins is rare. One reason is that lectins are most potent in their raw state, and foods containing them are not typically eaten raw.” Several of the commenters on Reddit claimed they had issues despite cooking the lentils well (Daily Harvest recommended cooking to an internal temperature of 165℉).
There are calls for testing the lentils to find the cause. As Jeffrey Bowersox, a lawyer representing Pearson and others affected by the situation, said via email:
Our immediate goal is to get Daily Harvest to widely broadcast to consumers the potential danger associated with the use of its Lentil Crumbles product in order to avoid the risk of further potential injury to users. Second, our goal is to collect and preserve for testing Daily Harvest Lentil Crumbles from consumers that have the product. This is important and, in my opinion, should take priority over Daily Harvest’s request that consumers ‘destroy the product.’ It’s important that the affected product be tested to determine what pathogen, if any, is present in Lentil Crumbles that could be responsible for the outbreak of illness.
Bowersox plans to file suit against the company “to encourage the actions described above.”