Daily Harvest Is Being Sued Over Its Lentil And Leek Crumbles Recall

When it comes to mass outbreaks of foodborne illness, "oops" doesn't really cut it — especially when that oops has forced hundreds of consumers to get their gallbladders surgically removed. It's only June, and already this year has seen product recalls from brands like Smithfield bacon and Gorton's Fish Sandwiches. Or, who could forget the $125 million Jif peanut butter recall that affected multiple brands across supermarket shelves? But, the latest recall isn't from a product you'll find at the grocery store, and it isn't just a matter of E. coli or salmonella this time, either.

Last week, plant-based meal delivery subscription service Daily Harvest issued a voluntary recall of its French Lentil + Leek Crumbles in response to multiple affected consumers taking to social media to report gastrointestinal problems, trips to the emergency room, and even organ failure after eating the product. Now, according to a press release, the company is facing legal action. 

Marler Clark, a law firm that specializes in cases involving foodborne illnesses, has officially launched a lawsuit against Daily Harvest, Inc., on behalf of Carol Ann Ready of Oklahoma. In the press release, the firm said the lawsuit is the "first of many."

Symptoms confuse medical experts

In May, after eating the Crumbles, Ready was taken to the emergency room, where doctors couldn't conclusively figure out the cause of her severe abdominal pain, per the press release. After returning home, Ready again ate the Crumbles, unaware that they were the culprit, and was this time hospitalized for four days. Ready underwent surgery to have her gallbladder removed a week later. 

"I ate the crumbles twice, unfortunately. Both times, within 48 hours, I was in the emergency room," Ready said, per The Los Angeles Times. After her second hospitalization, Ready said a friend sent her a link to a Reddit forum and multiple Twitter posts about the Daily Harvest recall but, by that point, her gallbladder removal surgery was already ordered. "It still didn't change anything for me," says Ready. "The dysfunction was there. The damage was done."

According to Bill Marler of Marler Clark, nearly 100 people with similar extreme experiences have contacted the law firm. According to the press release, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported 460 consumers have been affected by the Crumbles as of June 23, and, considering Daily Harvest distributed roughly 28,000 units of the Crumbles from April 28 to June 17 alone, the number of affected persons could continue to climb.

What this means for consumers

Perhaps the most distressing part of the situation for customers is that nobody has yet been able to identify the cause of these traumatic symptoms. According to the Marler Clark press release, the medical professionals at St. John's Ascension Medical Center were unable to determine the cause of Ready's liver and gallbladder dysfunction even after multiple blood tests and a CT scan. 

Martin Bucknavage, a senior food safety extension associate at Penn State, is concerned by the Crumbles' abnormal effects. "The symptoms for this are just not typical of what we would see with your traditional type of hazards in food," says Bucknavage, via NBC. "It's different, and it's not something I've ever seen."

On June 27, Daily Harvest founder and CEO Rachel Drori released a statement updating consumers on the recall and how the company is working to remedy it. Daily Harvest has been working with the FDA to identify the cause of the ailments but, Drori says, all tests for common foodborne pathogens and bacteria (including Listeria, E.Coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus Aureus) have all come back negative. 

"Despite consulting with numerous experts, cooperating with FDA's investigation, working with our supply chain, and conducting extensive testing, we have not yet identified a cause," Drori says in the statement. For now, consumers will have to wait for answers and proceed with caution in the meantime.