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Daily Harvest Announces 15% Workforce Layoffs After Lentil Debacle That Caused Nearly 100 Hospitalizations



Daily Harvest Announces 15% Workforce Layoffs After Lentil Debacle That Caused Nearly 100 Hospitalizations

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The plant-based superfood meal delivery company announced layoffs after Daily Harvest members became ill after eating its frozen French Lentil & Leek Crumbles

Daily Harvest has announced layoffs of 15% of its workforce, just weeks after an illness left the popular vegan meal delivery service perplexed. Following customer reports of serious gastrointestinal issues, the plant-based superfood company voluntarily recalled its French Lentil and Leek Crumbles while it investigated the cause.

According to Fortune, the layoffs were announced during an August 5 All Hands meeting, where Daily Harvest team members were told the layoffs were due to economic circumstances and were planned prior to the lentil crisis. The layoffs are said to affect less than 50 Daily Harvest employees.

The FDA had received reports of 96 hospitalizations and 277 illness events across the country, and investigated complaints of gastrointestinal illness and abnormal liver function. Daily Harvest reported it received approximately 470 reports of illness or adverse reactions, and two lawsuits have been filed against Daily Harvest and the manufacturer on behalf of two children who became ill, including a four-month-old. 

Daily Harvest was initially puzzled by the reports of sickness, and Rachel Drori, founder and CEO of the NY-based Daily Harvest, shared with consumers that its comprehensive testing ruled out a variety of root causes like Hepatitis A, Norovirus, a range of mycotoxins, food-borne pathogens including Listeria, E.Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph), B.Cereus, and Clostridium Species and major allergens. In a letter to customers, Drori stated that Daily Harvest was confident that the problem was limited to French Lentil + Leek Crumbles and would continue to investigate the cause of the illness.

By July 19, Daily Harvest had revealed that tara flour, derived from seeds of the tara tree, was linked to the reported gastrointestinal issues.

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“We have only used this ingredient in French Lentil + Leek Crumbles and we are no longer sourcing from this producer who does not provide any ingredients for our 140+ other items. This was the first and only time we’ve used tara flour, which has been available and used in the North American market as a plant-based source of protein prior to our use. Our investigation team will continue working with the FDA, the tara flour producer and others to help determine what specifically made people sick,” Daily Harvest’s CEO shared on social media. “I want to personally apologize to anyone who has been impacted as well as reaffirm my commitment to making sure this experience provides lessons we can implement,” Drori continued.

One Daily Harvest customer claimed he tried to warn Daily Harvest’s CEO about the seriousness of the illness, prompting criticism of the meal delivery service. Luke Tashie, a marathon runner, was hospitalized three times for elevated liver enzymes, calling it the most intense pain he’s ever experienced. Tashie, who spoke with NBC News, received an email from Daily Harvest advising customers to discard the French Lentil and Leek Crumbles due to a “small number of customers” reporting gastrointestinal discomfort. The email went on to say that the lentils needed to be thoroughly cooked. By the time Tashie received the email, he was already in the hospital.

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Tashie spent some time seeking out others online who were suffering with similar symptoms, and said he decided to reach out to Drori via LinkedIn. Tashie said he wanted to sound the alarm that the illness outbreak wasn’t simply related to improper cooking methods as Daily Harvest’s email had implied, but a “major public safety problem.” He revealed that he wasn’t just experiencing mild GI discomfort, but that it was serious enough that surgeons were advising him to have his gallbladder removed.

At the time, Drori responded that the food delivery company was actively investigating and ignored Tashie’s inquiry if the FDA had been informed. Tashie said he became concerned, wondering if Daily Harvest customers may have missed the email. He then said he messaged Drori again, writing, “I am pleading for you to PLEASE let medical professionals know what is going on. Please let the news outlets know.” That afternoon, Daily Harvest announced the then-unknown mystery illness on its website.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Bobby Flay were early backers of the New York-based start-up, which achieved unicorn status last year.

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