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Sara Schacht is part of a select group of people who got E. coli in two separate outbreaks. First victim of the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in Seattle at the age of 13, Schacht fell ill again 20 years later after dining at a Seattle Ethiopian restaurant linked to the E. coli outbreak in February 2013.

And now, nearly a decade later, Schacht could be part of another outbreak of foodborne illness.

“The funny thing is, on average, Americans suffer from foodborne disease outbreaks every 10 years. So, the good news is that I had a one-decade hiatus,” Schacht said. Food safety news.

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On June 19, the Daily Harvest “French Lentil + Leek” was withdrawn.

Food delivery service Harvest released a statement on June 19 reminding them of their “French Lentil + Leek Crumb” after receiving customer reports of products causing gastrointestinal problems. Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the number of consumers reporting sickness after consuming the product.

“The irony that I got into all this with the Daily Harvest didn’t escape me. I want to be careful to say that I am still waiting for my lab results. I’m still waiting to test the Daily Harvest product. But I suspect, based on what I’ve heard from others, that I may be in this outbreak,” Schacht said. “No one knows for sure about this outbreak right now. And the company didn’t help with that.”

The Seattle native has been using the Daily Harvest food service for months. She began to feel unwell sometime in May, experiencing two separate nights a week or two apart from severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Her stomach was swollen and inflamed. “I will still carry on with my life as best I can. And then I would have these random gastrointestinal events. They were really painful. One night I was driving to work and realized that I might have to go to the emergency room, the pain was so bad. It was scary to wake up in such pain.”

Over the holiday weekend, Schucht received an email from Daily Harvest saying they were recalling “French lentils + leek crumbs”.

“I immediately e-mailed them and asked, guys, have you determined what the pathogen is or what is the cause of the disease? And got an auto reply. It was the exact same email that had been sent to me before.”

Schucht threw away the bags. “I opened my compost and threw the bags in the trash.” But on Friday night, before she received the letter, she drank a smoothie from the Daily Harvest. “I thought I didn’t have enough protein for the whole day. I’ll take, for example, a protein shake for dessert. So I took one of their pre-packaged smoothies, added protein powder and mixed it in, and the next day I got really sick.”

“And I suspect, and I can’t know for sure, it’s my gut feeling, if not a pun, that based on looking at all these other complaints online, this might not be limited to just one product. But I can’t prove it. This is just my suspicion.

French lentil + leek

“When you order something from Daily Harvest, it’s like you set it and forget it, and they just keep delivering items to you on a regular basis,” Schacht explained. “You live your busy life and eat this supply of food in your freezer. I think I ate more than two packets (French lentils + leek crumbs). Probably a little more. The packages are equal in volume to two or three separate bags for chips.

Schucht recalls being excited about a month or two ago when Daily Harvest released two products called crumbs, a vegan protein product that you can add to your daily diet. “I am a vegetarian, I have been a vegetarian most of my life. So it was pretty compelling to have an extra protein product that I added to my meals.”

“I think I was one of the first to order it when it was available. Because I just thought, oh, that sounds good to add to a meal.”

She tried different ways to make crumbs, but found that they never came out as advertised. “It’s kind of like finely ground nuts and lentils and then mixed spices and maybe onions or a little bit of vegetables. It’s all finely ground, and it has a slightly moist texture. It is crumbly, but also wet. I wasn’t a big fan of it, but I’ve already ordered it twice.”

“I cooked it in a pan. I also reheated it in the microwave, which I have done with just about every Daily Harvest product I have ever had. They were like you can cook it in several ways. It never occurred to me that they would ship this item without the ingredients already prepared. I got the impression that he had previously gone through some kind of cooking or pasteurization process.

waiting

Shacht is waiting for several tests to come back to find out what the cause of the illness was and what might be in the product. “I sent the rest of the product I had. I didn’t understand, but at the very bottom of my refrigerator I had one open bag and one sealed bag of crumbs that I missed when I took out the other three bags.”

Shacht is slowly recovering from these bouts of illness. About ten years ago, she developed a reactive arthritis reaction after the second of two E. coli outbreaks she was involved in.

“It’s an inflammatory response to everything my gut went through, which is why I had a lot of physical pain. I have worked so hard in the last decade to reduce inflammation. And diet was a big part of that, and a lot of physical therapy to help manage inflammation and reduce it. And now I see some signs of reactive arthritis returning. Which really made me uncomfortable.”

“For the last couple of years, I’ve been in a good place. I have made an effort to become much healthier. I thought I was doing something good for my body – given my time constraints in work and life – by purchasing a product like the Daily Harvest.”

“For people in the food safety world who might be reading this interview, I have to tell them, ‘Hey, I’m double-checking the products I’ve received. And all of them were thoroughly frozen. As hard as a rock. I didn’t worry about spoilage.”

She noted that, with the exception of smoothies, she cooked food hot.

“For the last month and a half or so, you know, my doctor and I have been trying to figure out what was happening to me, and until the notice of the recall, they never figured out that this could be the reason that I was so uncomfortable.”

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