‘I’ve never felt pain like this’: Influencers recount harrowing experiences with Daily Harvest crumbs, blast firm’s handling of recall

The direct-to-consumer brand has long used a network of online influencers to promote its products. Now, several influencers, who say they are sickened, say the company’s lackluster handling of the crisis imposes a new responsibility on the influencer community to warn the public.

It also exposes the quick fallout that can happen when you hurt a demographic with such a wide internet reach.

“That’s what built them to be like a billion dollar review company, it’s all those influencers who did the marketing for them,” he added. “At this point, it’s the influencers alerting the public that you could end up in hospital if you eat this product.”

After consuming the product, Silverstein said, “I have never felt such pain – this is the first time I felt a bit helpless.”

In response to multiple requests for comment from CNN Business, Daily Harvest sent the latest update the company posted on its website regarding the voluntary recall.

“We want to make sure you have the latest update on our voluntary recall of French Lentil + Leek Crumbles. We take this very seriously and are doing everything we can to get to the bottom of it. Your health and wellbeing is our priority. priority,” the blog post read, adding that it has contacted affected customers and is taking a number of steps to investigate the cause.

“We are working with a group of experts to help us get to the bottom of this, which includes microbiologists, toxin and pathogen experts as well as allergists,” the Daily Harvest statement added. “All pathogen and toxicology results have come back negative so far, but we are continuing to do extensive testing and will keep you updated.”

In a updated blog post As of Thursday evening, the company said it had received around 470 reports of the illness or adverse reaction, and the root cause investigation is still ongoing. He added that some 28,000 units of the recalled product were distributed in the United States between April 28 and June 17.

On June 17, the company first emailed people who had received the product’s warning that “a small number of customers have reported gastrointestinal discomfort” after consuming the crumbs and urged those who still had to throw them away. He first released a statement warning the public not to consume the crumbs on June 19.

Launched in 2016, Daily Harvest’s emergence as a household name was largely tied to its aggressive social media campaigns. The company received several celebrity supporters, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams (representatives for Paltrow and Williams did not immediately respond to CNN Business’ request for comment).

The meal kit company announcement last November that it secured Series D funding that valued Daily Harvest at over $1 billion.

Influencers stalk United source for mysterious symptoms

Silverstein said he spent time at an urgent care center where doctors raced to figure out what was wrong. He tested negative for all forms of hepatitis, the original suspect, and took a series of blood tests that eventually showed liver enzyme levels that were off the charts. He says levels of important liver enzymes were elevated up to twelve times the normal range.

He spent weeks not knowing the cause of the mysterious illness, until he said his wife saw a message from fellow influencer Luke Wesley Pearson, a Portland content creator. Pearson was reporting strikingly similar symptoms, he said, and the two realized they had both received those crumbs from the company before they hit the public market.

Pearson told CNN Business he underwent emergency surgery on June 12 to have his gallbladder removed after experiencing gastrointestinal issues after consuming the crumbs.

Various frozen healthy meals (but not the crumbs that are part of the recall) are seen inside a box of Daily Harvest frozen meal kit, Lafayette, Calif., October 14, 2021. (Photo by Gado/Getty Images)

Pearson says he’s tried the lentil crumbs twice, both times causing severe stomach upset. It was the second try, however, that sent him to the ER. After symptoms that included ‘excruciating’ stomach pain, fever, chills, itchy hands and feet and jaundice, Pearson underwent tests which revealed – as did Silverstein – elevated liver enzymes. , as well as elevated bilirubin. Doctors ultimately decided to remove Pearson’s gallbladder.

For Pearson, it was only after seeing a viral tiktok by Abby Silverman that he realized the problems could be related to the food he had ingested just before his problems started. Silverman, creative director in New York, posted a video that garnered more than 100,000 likes on TikTok detailing her own experience after eating the Daily Harvest product. She said the lenses also landed her in the emergency room, twice, with alarming levels of liver enzymes. Although she suspects it could be from the crumbs, she said she officially linked her medical crisis to the lentils after a June 19 email from Daily Harvest recalling the food led her to a thread. Reddit of dozens of other people detailing similar symptoms. Silverman’s attorney, Mark Apostolos, confirmed to CNN Business in a statement that medical records document his illness and symptoms.

“It’s interesting because I’ve seen a lot of people on social media over the years try Daily Harvest, which is why I said yes to the PR package,” Silverman told CNN Business.

“This whole health situation has just caused so much anxiety,” said Silverman, who retained the services of an attorney, Apostolos, to deal with the fallout. “Obviously I didn’t expect that. I made the video I made because I feel like they weren’t doing enough to let people know what was going on – I I figured people probably still had that in their freezer.”

“We are investigating and evaluating all legal remedies for Abby, who was struck down with illness after consuming this product that was mailed to her,” Apostolos said in a statement.

Another customer who had her gallbladder removed was Candice Smith, who told CNN Business that she initially thought she was having a heart attack after consuming the product. “It was the worst night of my life,” Smith, CEO of French Press Public Relations in Raleigh, said of the night she rushed to the hospital – where she says she stayed for four days to undergo tests on his enlarged and elevated liver. liver enzymes. His gallbladder was removed on June 19.

The company declined to comment on claims that customers have had gallbladder surgeries related to its product. Everyone who spoke to CNN Business said doctors were initially puzzled by their symptoms.

Smith said she had no relevant pre-existing medical conditions prior to the hospital visit. “I try to be healthy. I eat plant-based, I try to do all the right things,” Smith said. ” What am I doing here ? Why am I even here? Why am I feeling this level of pain in my life?

The company’s response was described as insensitive

Caroline Sweet, an actress and freelance writer in Los Angeles, said she was in the emergency room after undergoing a CT scan after enduring days “completely bent over in pain” when she received an email on June 17 from Daily Harvest informing him to throw away the crumbs and offer him a $10 store credit. (The company said in a blog post that all consumers received credit for the recalled product).

“It was like a massive f**k you,” Sweet said of the email. “The fact that they’re handling it so badly feels like a huge slap in the face.”

Sarah Schacht, a consultant and property manager in Seattle, said she also fell “violently ill” after consuming the product which she says initially appealed to her for its organic and health-focused marketing. “Everyone on the internet got Daily Harvest ads, right?” she says.

Schacht spoke about Twitter about urging people to take samples from local health departments or their Food and Drug Administration offices.

Silverstein, meanwhile, said he was incredibly appalled by the Daily Harvest Instagram post used to alert customers to the recall. The post, which was posted on June 19, simply used a previous promotional image of the crumble – and invited people to click on a link for an “important message”, which directed them to a blog post about the voluntary recall. At first glance, Silverstein said most people would assume the post was promoting the product. Daily Harvest has since deleted the post it was referring to on their Instagram, which has been widely described as insensitive.

Silicon Valley is preparing for the end of the good times

The FDA told CNN Business in a statement that it cannot confirm or deny whether an investigation is ongoing that is not already listed on its website. “However, the FDA takes seriously reports of possible adulteration of a food that may also cause illness or injury,” an FDA spokesperson said in a statement.

The agency added that when consumer-specific guidelines can be developed, the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue outbreak advisories communicating these guidelines to the public.

“I’m very angry because we’re all left in the dark with no answers,” Pearson said. “I know accidents happen all the time in the food industry, and I’ve just seen other companies who are completely transparent, speaking up and making loud and clear announcements about what’s going on and what the next steps and what they have discovered so far.”

Silverstein added that he felt it was partly up to influencers to alert their followers. Although the company emailed customers and posted a statement on its website, he thinks it should do more to raise awareness on social media.

While he and his wife have worked with Daily Harvest for around five years now and have never had any issues in the past, he said they had no choice but to “sever our relationship with them”.

Comments are closed.