The direct-to-consumer brand has long used a network of online influencers to promote its products. Now, several influencers who say they’re sick to their stomachs say the company’s lackluster handling of the crisis has placed new responsibilities on the influencer community to alert the public.
It also reveals the quick fallout that can occur when you harm a demographic with such a large internet access.
“That’s what makes them like a billion dollar valuation company, all these influencers who do the marketing for them,” he added. “At this point, influencers are warning the public that you could end up in the hospital if you eat this product.”
After consuming the product, Silverstein said, “I’ve never experienced such pain—it’s the first time I’ve felt helpless.”
In response to CNN Business’ multiple requests for comment, Daily Harvest posted the latest update to the company’s 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 well-being is paramount to us. He added that he reached out to customers and took a series of steps to investigate why.
“We’re working with a group of experts to help us get to the bottom of this, including microbiologists, toxin and pathogen experts, as well as allergists,” adds the Daily Harvest statement. “So far all pathogen and toxicology results have been negative, but we continue to run extensive testing and will keep you updated.”
On June 17, the company first emailed people who had received a product alert that “few customers have reported gastrointestinal upset” after consuming the crumbs, urging them to throw away whatever they still had. It first issued a statement on June 19 warning the public not to consume the crumbs.
Launched in 2016, Daily Harvest’s emergence as a household name was largely linked to aggressive social media campaigns. The company has recruited several famous backers, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams (Paltrow and Williams’ representatives did not immediately respond to CNN Business’s request for comment).
Influencers track a unified source for mysterious symptoms
Silverstein said he spent time in an emergency care center where doctors scramble to find out what’s wrong. He tested negative for all forms of hepatitis, the first suspect, and eventually ran a series of blood tests that showed his liver enzyme levels were off the charts. He says levels of important liver enzymes rise to twelve times the normal range.
He spent weeks unaware of the cause of the mysterious illness, until he said that his wife had seen a post from fellow influencer Luke Wesley Pearson, a content creator from Portland. Pearson said she had reported shockingly similar symptoms, and they both realized they had gotten these crumbs from the company before they went public.
Pearson told CNN Business that she underwent emergency surgery on June 12 to have her gallbladder removed after suffering gastrointestinal issues after consuming the crumbs.
Pearson says she’s tried the lentil chunks twice, and both of them caused intense stomach pains. But it was the second attempt that sent him to the emergency room. After symptoms such as “painful” stomach aches, fever, chills, itching of the hands and feet and jaundice, Pearson was given a test that revealed elevated bilirubin as well as elevated liver enzymes like Silverstein. Doctors eventually decided to remove Pearson’s gallbladder.
“It’s interesting because I’ve seen a lot of people on social media trying Daily Harvest over the years, so I said yes to the PR package,” Silverman told CNN Business.
“This whole health situation has caused a lot of concern,” said Silverman, who hired an attorney named Apostolos to deal with the fallout. “Obviously I wasn’t expecting that. I shot the video I made because I didn’t think they were doing enough to let people know what was going on – I thought people probably still have it in their freezers.”
“We are investigating and evaluating all legal remedies for Abby, who became ill after consuming this product that was sent to her,” Apostolos said in a statement.
Another client who had her gallbladder removed was Candice Smith, who told CNN Business she thought she had a heart attack after consuming the product. “It was the worst night of my life,” said Smith, CEO of French Press Public Affairs in Raleigh, about the night he was hospitalized. enzymes. The gallbladder was removed on 19 June.
The company declined to comment on allegations that customers had undergone gallbladder surgery regarding its product. All the people who spoke to CNN Business said that doctors were initially confused by their symptoms.
Smith said she didn’t have any pre-existing medical conditions prior to the hospital visit. “I try to be healthy. I eat plant-based, I try to do everything right,” Smith said. “What am I doing here? Why am I here? Why am I experiencing this level of pain in my life?”
The company’s response was interpreted as insensitive
Caroline Sweet, a freelance actor and writer in Los Angeles, said she was in the emergency room coming back from a CT scan after spending days “completely doubled down in pain” when she received an email from Daily Harvest informing her on June 17. toss the crumbs and offer him a $10 store credit. (The company said in a blog post that all consumers were given credit for the recalled product).
“He was like a big fucker,” Sweet said in the email. “The fact that they handled it so badly feels like a huge slap in the face.”
Sarah Schacht, a consultant and property manager in Seattle, said she had similarly “fallen severely ill” after consuming the product, which she said was initially shot for her organic and health marketing. “Everybody on the internet was served Daily Harvest ads, right?” she said.
Meanwhile, Silverstein said he was incredibly dismayed by the Instagram post Daily Harvest used to warn customers about the recall. The post, published June 19, simply used a previous promotional image of the breakup — and prompted people to click on a link for an “important message” that led 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 removed the post it cited from Instagram, which has been widely denounced as insensitive.
The FDA said in a statement to CNN Business that it cannot confirm or deny whether an investigation is taking place, which is not yet listed on its website. “However, the FDA takes reports of possible adulteration of a food seriously, which could also cause illness or injury,” an FDA spokesperson said in a statement.
The agency added that once specific consumer guidance can be developed, the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue epidemic recommendations that communicate that guidance to the public.
“I’m so angry because we’re all left unanswered in the dark,” Pearson said. “I know that accidents happen in the food industry all the time, and I’ve seen other companies that are completely transparent, giving loud and clear explanations of what’s going on and what the next steps are and what they’ve found so far.”
Silverstein added that he thinks part of the responsibility for alerting his followers falls to influencers. While the company is emailing customers and posting a statement on its website, it feels they need to do more to raise awareness on social media.
He and his wife have worked with the Daily Harvest for nearly five years, and although they have had no problems in the past, he said they had no choice but to “break our ties with them.”