TOXICOLOGY QUESTION OF THE WEEK
FEBRUARY 10, 2023
What Daily Harvest health food was recalled for causing GI illness and hepatic injury in 2022?
Daily Harvest French Lentil + Leek Crumbles were recalled in June 2022 after 470 reports of adverse reactions and illness were sent to Daily Harvest. After an extensive search, Daily Harvest concluded that the causative agent was Tara flour which was used as a source of plant protein. The company website stated: “We considered all possibilities, including processing issues or infection, and have ruled all of them out: Hepatitis A, Norovirus, a range of mycotoxins, including aflatoxins, food-borne pathogens including Listeria, E.Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph), B.Cereus, and Clostridium Species and major allergens including egg, soy, milk, and gluten. Testing also confirmed there are no pesticides or the presence of heavy metal levels that would have caused the reported adverse effects. At this time, we have identified tara flour as the cause of the issue.”1
The FDA initiated an investigation after consumer complaints were submitted to the FDA as well as events reported to the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s (CFSAN) Adverse Event Reporting System. Three-hundred and ninety three reports were submitted to the FDA as of October 21, 2022.2 Tara flour is derived from the hand-picked seeds of the South American Tara tree which is a different plant than the root vegetable Taro which has a texture similar to a potato. Tara flour has been in the food supply for over a year as of July 2022 but overall has not been in the food supply very long. Tara gum has been utilized to thicken foods such as ice cream.3
There is not much literature on the Tara plant in food though here is one study that used Tara extract in the formulation of crackers: Effect of the Integrated Addition of a Red Tara Pods (Caesalpinia spinosa) Extract and NaCl over the Neo-Formed Contaminants Content and Sensory Properties of Crackers - PMC (nih.gov).4 No reports of nausea, vomiting, or liver injury are in this study. However, it does mention that Tara seeds contain a high tannin concentration. It still unclear at this time how the Tara flour resulted in illness. Nonetheless, the FDA stated on their website: "Check your freezers for and do not eat, sell, or serve recalled French Lentil & Leek Crumbles from Daily Harvest.”2
1. Drori R. Updates on our voluntary recall of French Lentil + Leek Crumbles. Available: https://www.daily-harvest.com/content/french-lentil-leek-crumbles-advis…. Accessed: January 6, 2023.
2. Investigation of Adverse Event Reports: French Lentil & Leek Crumbles (June 2022). Available: https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/investigation-adve…. Accessed: February 9, 2022.
3. Gill L. For Now, Skip Eating Products That Contain Tara Flour, CR's Food Experts Say. Consumer Reports. July 22, 2022. Available: https://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/skip-eating-products-that-c…. Accessed January 6, 2023.
4. Pedreschi F, Matus J, Bunger A, Pedreschi R, Huamán-Castilla NL, Mariotti-Celis MS. Effect of the Integrated Addition of a Red Tara Pods (Caesalpinia spinosa) Extract and NaCl over the Neo-Formed Contaminants Content and Sensory Properties of Crackers. Molecules. 2022;27(3):1020. Published 2022 Feb 2. doi:10.3390/molecules2703102
Question submitted by Rebecca Bruccoleri, MD, Medical Director, Tennessee Poison Center; Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Dept of Medicine, Vanderbilt School of Medicine
Comment: One of our Vanderbilt physicians sent this interesting question to us. If you access the first reference, you will see that it is a note from the CEO of Daily Harvest. She states that Daily Harvest worked with the FDA and CDC and top doctors to determine the cause of the problem, but never actually states the problem i.e. the liver enzyme elevations and GI symptoms. The actual testing done to determine the causative agent is not described. There certainly are some unanswered questions regarding the research and oversight as well as the etiology of the symptoms. ds
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DONNA SEGER, MD
Department of Medicine
TENNESSEE POISON CENTER
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