August 12, 2022

What is Causing Daily Harvest French Lentils Crumbles Illnesses?

What is Causing Daily Harvest French + Lentils Crumbles Illnesses?

In the last few weeks, there have been almost 500 reports of adverse reactions from consumers who ate this product. Some people have required hospitalization, and at least one person underwent gallbladder surgery after showing signs of liver damage. In fact, a number of people reported that tests showed their liver enzymes were very elevated, and in most cases people said their symptom onset was quite sudden. The common stories being told by people who got sick after eating these lentil crumbles from Daily Harvest have led to a number of theories on what might be causing these symptoms.

For its part, Daily Harvest put out a statement yesterday that reads, “We have spent the past ten days working with the FDA, state agencies and multiple independent labs, as well as experts in microbiology, food safety and toxicology to conduct testing. These tests cover common food-borne pathogens, toxins, and allergens. Results thus far have all come back negative.”  Which, depending on what has been looked at already, further deepens the mystery.

The Backstory of Daily Harvest French Lentil + Leek Crumbles Illnesses

Reports of illness among people who ate this product started to surface the week of June 20, 2022. In all, 470 reports of adverse events have been identified and, based on FDA reports as of today, we suspect the FDA has 107 formal adverse event reports in their CAERS database. Consumers reported having sudden onset stomach and abdominal pain. A few patients had elevated liver enzymes, some 12 times above the normal range. At least one surgery to remove a gallbladder was reportedly performed, possibly as a precaution when doctors could not find another cause of the patient’s liver problems.

Daily Harvest recalled their product on June 23, 2022. All lot codes of Daily Harvest French Lentil + Leek Crumbles were included in this recall. The product is sold frozen.

What’s odd about these illnesses is how quickly they occurred. Illness from pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, cyclospora, and Campylobacter usually take days or weeks to appear. The pathogen with the shortest incubation time, norovirus, is still at least six hours; although toxins from pathogens, such as enterotoxins from Staphylococcal aureus (Staph) bacteria can act even faster than that. But enterotoxins don’t typically lead to rapid-onset liver damage.

If the reports of liver damage end up being definitively linked to the consumption of the Daily Harvest crumbles, that might be the best clue we know of at this point to rule in or out various causes.

It is important to note that our speculation in this article is based solely on the information we have compiled related to the causes of sudden onset liver and gallbladder illness. It is not a complete list and we are not medical professionals. If you have eaten Daily Harvest French Lentil + Leek Crumbles and are experiencing any signs of illness, you should contact a medical professional right away.

Pathogens That Cause Liver and Gallbladder Illness

Pathogens that can cause acute liver failure include hepatitis A, B, and E. The Epstein-Barr virus can also affect the liver.

Salmonella infections can lead to liver injury, but this etiology takes time. Salmonella Typhi colonizes the gall bladder and the pathogen remains in that organ after symptoms subside. The pathogen reaches the gallbladder through the liver.

Acute cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) can also be caused by pathogens such as E. coli, Klebsiella, Clostridium perfringens, and Enterobacter cloacae.

These pathogens all have longer onset times than what has been reported. In addition, these pathogens are destroyed when food is properly heated. Instructions on the product tell consumers to heat it to 165°F before consumption, which is high enough to kill any of the pathogens we would normally associate with possible liver damage.

Chemicals That Cause Liver and Gallbladder Illness

There are some chemicals that can cause acute liver and gallbladder disease. Toxic hepatitis can be caused by overuse of acetaminophen and ibuprofen, prescription medications, solvents, some dietary supplements, and chemicals such as tetrachloride, paraquat, and industrial chemicals.

This inflammation can lead to liver damage and scarring that occur over time; again, this avenue is less likely given how quickly people got sick.

Toxins that Cause Liver and Gallbladder Illness

Lentils can be associated with a toxin called lectin, that when ingested can lead to rapid onset gastrointestinal illness.  However, lectin toxicity does not typically lead to liver damage. Additionally, properly cooking the lentils would destroy any toxic levels of lectin present in the product.

Toxins that can cause liver damage include herbs and supplements such as black cohosh, cascara, aloe vera, chaparral, comfrey, kava, and ephedra among others.

Mycotoxins, which are produced by certain types of mold, can affect the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. These toxins can contaminate stored grains and get into food when that grain is used. Mycotoxin poisoning often leads to very rapid onset of symptoms and sometimes very severe disease.  High temperatures and enough cooking time will degrade mycotoxins and render the food safe, however it’s not clear if the time and temperature instructions for cooking these products would have been enough to eliminate any mycotoxins. Because of this, mycotoxins were an early contender that some people thought might be the cause. However, the June 28th statement from Daily Harvest indicates that FDA, state and private lab testing did not uncover any common food-borne pathogens, toxins or allergens. We would assume mycotoxins would be one of the sources these labs would have been looking for.

Protect Yourself

Until we know what is causing Daily Harvest French Lentil + Leek Crumbles illnesses, it’s important to make sure you do not have this product in your home. Throw it away in a sealed package inside a secure trash can. And if you are ill or exhibiting symptoms of liver or gallbladder toxicity, see your doctor as soon as possible. Your liver can heal itself over the course of weeks or months. So the sooner you get medical help, the more likely you will have a better outcome.

Attorneys at the Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Law Firm

The Daily Harvest injury cases will likely be complex and an experienced food safety legal team can help determine what your legal options will be. If you have been sickened with liver or gallbladder disease or had any serious medical problems after eating Daily Harvest French Lentil + Leek Crumbles, please contact our food safety attorneys at 1-888-377-8900 or text us at 612-261-0856. Our firm represents clients in lawsuits against grocery stores and food processors.

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