Jenna Dargenzio was excited to learn of her first Daily Harvest delivery.
On May 11, she beat the subscription service’s “crumpy” lentils and leeks, part of a PR package the company hopes she will sell to her 66,000 followers on Facebook. TikTok.
The finished product looks and functions like spiced tofu pieces. It can be sprinkled on salads as a savory garnish or seasoned in tacos. She eats it for dinner around 8:30pm
Dargenzio, 32, told The Daily Beast: “At 5am on the 12th, I was thrown up, thrown up, in excruciating pain and panicking.
Marc Conklin, her husband, woke up to the sound of his crying wife hovering above the toilet. They said they decided to go to the ER.
Dargenzio, a content creator and jewelry designer living in Los Angeles, was given morphine while nurses scrambled to figure out what was wrong.
“Most of the tests came back fine. They thought I had a UTI,” she said. “They don’t know what to check.”
They took her home around 10 a.m., but as the morphine dwindled and Tylenol was powerless against her pain, she rushed back to the clinic that same afternoon.
“I ran inside, I was crying in the hallway,” she recalls.
Doctors ordered an endoscopy, which showed “a lot of inflammation,” Dargenzio said. She was bedridden for a week until the pain slowly disappeared, but that was only the beginning of her and Conklin’s nightmare. Because they had not yet linked Dargenzio’s illness to the wreckage, he ate the leftovers.
Little by little, he began to exhibit his own symptoms: dark urine, extreme itching.
“We are searching on Google What are the signs of extreme itching? and it speaks to liver damage,” says Dargenzio.
Eventually, tests showed his liver enzymes were elevated, a sign of liver damage.
“At that point, he ate the crumbs. It slowly builds up in his system and produces symptoms of intoxication. We had no clue that it was debris until Saturday when we saw Abby’s TikTok,” she explained, referring to a video by around the world Digital Creative Director Abby Sillverman who blew up #lentilgate.
In the video, Silverman goes through a scenario identical to Dargenzio’s, from picking up debris in a PR box to having to go to the hospital waiting for a bunch of test results.
“When I watched the video, I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ My mind was blown away. I heard it and I said, “Wait… I ate the crumbs.”
Dargenzio is one of hundreds of frustrated Daily Harvest customers who have complained of nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, stomach cramps, insomnia and cravings after eating the infamous lentil dish. Some people say they have had their gallbladder removed. Many of them have gather on Reddit, find solace in their similarly shocking experiences, while Daily Harvest issues synthetic statements encouraging their customers to throw away the risky beans. (Daily Harvest did not respond to a request for comment.)
Launched in 2015 by Rachel Drori, Daily Harvest markets itself as an Instagram-ready delivery service, bridging the gap between convenience and nutrition. It counts celebrities like Bobby Flay, Shaun White, Haylie Duff, Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams among its investors, according to Forbesand it advertises itself wildly on social media, where its minimalist design and brimming smoothie cups are instantly recognizable to anyone who spends time on endless feeds .
Dargenzio was one of the unlucky few to receive a free product a month before it was distributed to the public, but many customers have paid the price for the privilege of being saddled with thousands of dollars in debt and as a result. medically uncertain.
Actress and freelance copywriter Caroline Sweet, 37, switched to Daily Harvest just four months ago. She’s drawn to the ease of preparing items compared to services like HelloFresh, which provide ingredients that must be prepared and cooked according to exact instructions.
“They require less assembly and I’m lazy,” she told The Daily Beast. “You just heat it up in the oven or the microwave.”
Last Tuesday night, she added crumbs to a salad she had ordered elsewhere. It was almost impossible for her to complete it.
She said: “My stomach rumbles halfway through.
She threw the food away and continued with her nightly chores, although she was a bit bothered by what she described as “upper stomach cramps”.
Thinking it wasn’t too serious, she drank some Gas-X and did a lot of exercises and stretches, pressing her knees to her stomach to ease the discomfort. She frantically searched Google for terms like “diaphragm pain” looking for something that would describe the feeling.
“Finally at 6 a.m. I called it, hobbled to the tub, started showering, lay in the tub, scheduled a remote appointment, and I was crying in the tub,” she said.
“Finally at 6am I called him, hobbled to the tub, started showering, lay in the tub, scheduled a remote appointment, and I was crying in the tub…“
The online doctor advised her to go to the emergency room, but Sweet lives alone and doesn’t feel comfortable driving herself in that condition. It was still early, and she didn’t want to burden her friends by asking for a ride to the hospital.
She spent the next few days at home drinking coconut water — one of the things she could swallow and holding off — and taking ibuprofen.
“I would have thrown it out if I hadn’t woken up Saturday morning with white poop. I thought, “Okay, that can’t be good.”
At the hospital, she was told that her white blood cell count was low, a common sign of a viral infection, and that her liver enzyme levels were “crazy high”.
While speaking to The Daily Beast on Thursday morning, Sweet was walking into the doctor’s office to have his enzyme levels checked again.
“My life is now being drained of my blood every few days,” she said.
On Sunday, Daily Harvest publicly acknowledged the disaster in a widely criticized email. The company appears to be blaming consumers for not cooking the lentil product.
“As included in our cooking guide, lentils must be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165℉,” the company said, according to a copy of a personal email provided to The Daily. Beast. “Like some other beans, raw lentils contain a protein that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms unless cooked thoroughly.”
The service instructed customers to dispose of the product, which would have prevented them from providing the package for inspection to the Food and Drug Administration. (Many customers on Reddit say that FDA representatives collected product samples from their homes, but the federal agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.) Most humiliating, the public The company offered customers a $10 “credit” for every French bag. Lentils + shredded leeks in your last box. “
Sweet is unbelievable.
“As a former publisher, this is the exact wrong textbook way to handle a problem,” says Sweet. “I got their first email while sitting in the ER bed because I was afraid I was going to have to have surgery. The way the email reads like, ‘Not a big deal.’ And to go ahead and say you might have cooked the lentils wrong? First, minimize my pain. Second, tell me it’s my fault. Third, throw away the food and then say to me, “Here’s 10 dollars.”
“There’s a lot of cover-up, it feels like that,” she added.
On Wednesday, the company released a follow-up statement announcing the voluntary lentil recall in cooperation with the FDA. The subscription service said “all pathogen and toxicology results came back negative”, and it doubled down on pleas for customers to throw away lentils.
On Thursday, it updated its statement to reflect that approximately 28,000 packages of lentils were distributed to customers between April 28 and June 17. The company said it had directly received 470 reports of illness or adverse reactions.
After many days of worrying about what the next day would bring, Ms. Sweet choked when asked about the product’s potential impact on her long-term health.
“Because they don’t know what it is. There’s no such thing — they don’t know what it is. I just couldn’t get there,” she said through tears. “All I have to do is eventually, my enzyme levels will drop and hopefully it will. I just – I can’t go there. “
Sweet hopes to recover in time for the tasting she previously scheduled for July 4, but she admits that may no longer be the case.
Dargenzio said she feels better, but not “100%” as herself. Even if she makes a full recovery, she’s not entirely sure her bank account will recover.
Her medical bills from the incident went up to $20,000, including $8,000 for the first ER visit, $10,000 for the second (after she was told to go home and get pain relief), and 1,500 dollars for endoscopy. On top of that, it took her a week of work.
Her husband, a technical designer who works at a company that builds structures for museums, theme parks and movie sets, also had to quit.
Attorney Bill Marler, who has specialized in food-borne illness litigation for more than three decades, said the couple could be compensated for lost wages, medical bills and emotional distress if they start a business. to sue.
In 1993, the Seattle-based attorney represented many children who became ill from an E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants in four states. More than 700 people were infected and 4 children died.
But before any lawsuits could be filed, Marler explained that it was necessary to establish a direct link between Daily Harvest and countless reports of similar symptoms. He, along with his epidemiologist and nurse, is currently in the process of analyzing the medical records of nearly 30 people who have contacted him about lentils to date. They are also sending leftover product samples to an FDA-approved lab for testing.
“Because they don’t know what it is. There’s no such thing — they don’t know what it is. I can not go there. All I have to do is eventually, my enzyme levels will drop and hopefully that’s it. I just – I can’t go there.“
“So the lab is looking at what the common symptoms are and then what kind of pathogen or chemical or poison will mimic that,” he said, adding that it could take weeks, if not months, to find out what causes these types of connections.
“You have a bunch of people with similar complaints and symptoms who have consumed each other’s products within a few days,” Marler told The Daily Beast. “That makes it sound like it’s some kind of toxin or chemical that got into the product on its own, but before I file a lawsuit against Daily Harvest, I’ll come to the conclusion that the product is clearly is making people sick. “
Dargenzio says her problem with Daily Harvest isn’t just about money.
“I think the main problem is that they lack accountability. “They are very dodging. They could have protected a lot of people if they had paid up front in the first place. “
Sweet has yet to receive her ER bill, but she said she was “nervous” and “scared” when she saw the final amount.
Online researchers have speculated that the disease caused by lentils may be caused by aflotoxins, fungi found on rotting plants, but this has not been confirmed by any federal or medical agency. which confirmed.
“It’s definitely a mold or a fungus or something else,” Sweet said, agree that the aflatoxin explanation seems reasonable. “I can’t believe I’m even saying these words. Why do I know this? “