Daily Harvest, a plant-based meal delivery service, has identified the ingredient that had sickened hundreds of customers: tara flour.
When they made this announcement, the first response from many of Daily Harvest’s customers was, what in the world is tara flour?
What is Tara Flour?
Tara flour has been growing recently in popularity as a plant-based source of protein for vegetarians or vegan foods, food safety experts said.
The flour is used as an alternative to wheat flour and can be found in various products like shakes, muffins, and cookies, said Divya Jaroni, an associate professor of animal and food sciences at Oklahoma State University.
Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, said the product has found a market in vegetarian and vegan recipes because it can be more challenging to get enough protein on that diet.
The seeds of tara trees, which are indigenous to South America, particularly Peru, are used to make tara flour.
Daily Harvest Use of Tara Flour
Daily Harvest said it had identified tara flour as the ingredient in its French Lentil & Leek Crumbles product, leading to the adverse event.
The crumbles caused hundreds of people to become sick, with some reporting elevated liver enzymes and liver dysfunction and having their gallbladder removed.
The Food and Drug Administration revealed that as of July 14, 277 instances of illness were linked to Daily Harvest’s French Lentil & Leek Crumbles, and 96 people had been admitted to hospitals.
Concerning the mentioned frozen food from Daily Harvest, the FDA has been looking into reports of “gastrointestinal sickness and abnormal liver function.”
Daily Harvest hasn’t specified what caused the tara flour to sicken people.
The possibilities could include contamination issues or problems during the manufacturing or extraction process.
“This was the first and only time we have 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,” Daily Harvest said.
“Our investigation team will continue to work with the FDA, the tara flour manufacturer, and others to help determine what specifically made people sick.”
The company also faces lawsuits from people claiming they got sick after consuming the product.
Two cases were brought against the company and the product’s manufacturer on behalf of two children, including a 4-month-old who was breastfed.
The FDA has not found tara flour to cause the problem.
According to the FDA, it lists substances or ingredient suppliers “only when there is enough evidence tying that ingredient to disease or damage,” according to a statement provided to NBC News on Wednesday.
The FDA has stated that it gathers data and examines samples from various substances.
“This includes extensive testing for various types of contaminants, including microbial and chemical contaminants.”
“Sample analysis takes time, but there are no guarantees that the information available to the government will show a definitive link between illnesses and foods.”
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