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Inside Daily Harvest’s alleged food poisoning debacle

August 17, 2022, 12:18 PM UTC

Food unicorn Daily Harvest voluntarily recalled its French Lentil + Leek Crumbles in mid-June. Meanwhile, customers claimed the crumbles were making them sick, with symptoms including stomach pain, elevated liver levels, jaundice, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, back pain, and shoulder pain. Some customers allege that they had to have their gallbladders removed as a result of eating the product. 

Daily Harvest’s early attempts to reach customers—an email sent out June 17, and, two days later, updates to the company’s Instagram posts featuring the item—came too late for some who had already eaten the crumbles. But one customer, Tasha Peterson, says she didn’t see the warnings and consumed the product weeks after the recall, according to reporting from my colleague Beth Kowitt, who recently dug into the company’s response for a feature story for Fortune.

“I understand recalls happen,” Peterson told Kowitt, “but I do expect that they’d do a better job of letting me know there’s a problem.” The message blended in with the regular promotional emails she gets from the company, she asserts, and there were no text updates.

Kowitt quotes five women who claim they suffered symptoms after eating the Daily Harvest dish, some of whom ended up in the ER. Some consumers have said that the recall email was easy to miss and lacked urgency, and that Daily Harvest’s initial social media posts—where the company has focused a lot of effort on earning its fan base—were slow to arrive and buried the warning.

“The goal of a recall is to ensure that people stop consuming the item,” Daily Harvest said in a statement to Fortune for the story. “We used the most effective communication channels to notify customers directly and the recall was successful.” The company declined to comment further for the article.

The whole ordeal showcases how utilizing social media channels like TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter to garner a following and grow a company can also amplify a startup at its worst. Its social media influencers and customers helped propel Daily Harvest into a startup valued at $1.1 billion, backed by VMG Partners and Serena Williams. And now it is they who have drawn attention to the alleged poisoning.

“This is the first time I’ve seen an outbreak figured out by social media,” Bill Marler, a lawyer who says he’s representing some 350 people who claim the crumbles made them sick, told Kowitt.

It’s still unclear the exact cause of the symptoms: Daily Harvest publicly pinpointed tara flour, a plant-based protein in the crumbles, about a month after its original email, as the ingredient behind the outbreak. But the company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration haven’t determined what specifically is at issue with the tara flour.

Meanwhile, the FDA is reporting that, so far, nearly 500 people have gotten sick and 113 have been sent to the hospital, and some customers have lost their once-strong faith in the brand.

You can read the full story here.

Until tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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VENTURE DEALS

- Incredible Health, a San Francisco-based career marketplace for health care workers, raised $80 million in Series B funding. Base10 Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, and others. 

- AtoB, a San Francisco-based payments platform for the trucking industry, raised $75 million in Series B funding. Elad Gil and General Catalyst led the round and were joined by investors including Collaborative Fund, Contrary Capital, XYZ Venture Capital, and Leadout Capital.

- Modulate, a Boston-based voice chat safety company, raised $30 million in Series A funding. Lakestar led the round and was joined by investors including Everblue Management, Hyperplane Ventures, and others. 

- HyperTrack, a San Francisco-based logistics app builder, raised $25 million in Series A funding co-led by WestBridge Capital and Nexus Venture Partners

- KeyCare, a Chicago and Madison, Wis.-based virtual care platform, raised $24 million in Series A funding. 8VC, LRVHealth, Bold Capital, and Spectrum Health Ventures invested in the round.  

- Vividly, a San Francisco-based trade promotion management solution, raised $18 million in Series A funding. 645 Ventures and Vertex Ventures US led the round and were joined by investors including Costanoa Partners, Torch Capital, and Green Spoon Sales

- Omni, a remote-based business intelligence platform, raised $17.5 million in Series A funding. Redpoint led the round and was joined by investors including First Round and GV.

- Sync Computing, a Cambridge, Mass.-based cloud infrastructure optimization company, raised $15.5 million in Series A funding. Costanoa Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including The Engine, Moore Strategic Ventures, and National Grid Partners

- Northbeam, a San Francisco-based marketing measurement platform for DTC and e-commerce brands, raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Silversmith Capital Partners

- Explo, a New York and San Francisco-based customer-facing analytics company, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Craft Ventures’ Lainy Painter led the round and was joined by investors including Felicis Ventures, Amplo VC, and other angels. 

- Dr.B, a New York-based telehealth company, raised $8 million in seed funding. Lerer Hippeau, Founders Fund, and others invested in the round. 

- Love, a Miami-based pharmaceutical group, raised $7.5 million in seed funding from Human Capital and MaC Venture Capital

- Bearing, a Palo Alto-based green shipping software company, raised $7 million in post-seed funding from Mitsui & Co. and AI Fund.

- Byte Kitchen, a San Mateo, Calif.-based restaurant scaling company, raised $6 million in funding. Crosslink Capital, Emergent Ventures, and Lookout co-founder and CTO Kevin Mahaffey led the round and were joined by investors including Correlation Ventures, Wndrco, Soma Capital, and Y Combinator, and other angels. 

- Serenity EHS, a San Diego-based environmental, health, safety, and sustainability software company, raised $5 million in seed funding led by Base10 Partners.

- Sphere, a San Francisco-based online machine learning and data science training company, raised $4.3 million in seed funding. Felicis led the round and was joined by other angels.

- Regression Games, a Philadelphia-based A.I. gaming and e-sports company, raised $4.2 million in seed funding. New Enterprise Associates led the round and was joined by investors including a16z, BBQ Capital, Roosh Ventures, and other angels. 

- Venue, a remote-based video-conferencing company that turns meetings into interactive livestreams, raised $4 million in seed funding. Accel led the round and was joined by other angels. 

- Happy Viking, a New York-based plant-based nutrition brand, raised $2 million in funding. Venus Williams, Serena Williams, 35V, Peloton vice president of fitness programming Robin Arzón, professional golfer Michelle Wie West, soccer athlete Megan Rapinoe, tennis athlete Reilly Opelka, and basketball athletes Isaiah Hartenstein and Collin Sexton invested in the round.   

PRIVATE EQUITY

- All Star Auto Lights, an Atlantic Street Capital portfolio company, acquired Blackburn OEM Wheel Solutions, a Macedonia, Ohio-based original equipment manufacturer of wheels, wheel covers, and center caps provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Axo, a Corsair portfolio company, acquired Defero, an Oslo-based digital credit scoring and financial management platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Cornerstone OnDemand, backed by Clearlake Capital Group, acquired SumTotal, a Gainesville, Fla.-based learning and human capital management SaaS solutions provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Dallas Plastics, a Sole Source Capital portfolio company, acquired Emballage MPP, a Montreal-based polyethylene-based blown film products manufacturer. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Discovery Education, backed by Clearlake Capital Group, acquired DoodleLearning, a Bath, U.K.-based math and english learning platform. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Eir Partners recapitalized ClaimLogiq, a Charleston, S.C.-based payment integrity platform focused on pre-payment solutions. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- EMS Management & Consultants, backed by BV Investment Partners, acquired VAIRKKO, a Raleigh-based workforce and operations management software. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- System High Corporation, an Enlightenment Capital portfolio company, acquired ManageYOURiD, a Charlotte-based software provider of identity management, risk mitigation, and personal privacy services to commercial, government, and individual consumers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Thoma Bravo acquired Mercell, an Oslo-based e-tendering and procurement systems provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- WeVideo, a Thompson Street Capital Partners portfolio company, acquired PlayPosit, a remote-based video learning software company. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

EXITS

- KKR, acquired Barracuda Networks, a Campbell, Calif.-based cloud-first security solutions provider, from Thoma Bravo. Financial terms were not disclosed.

OTHER

- Authentic Brands Group agreed to acquire Ted Baker, a London-based fashion company, for $254 million. 

- Airiam acquired Vantage Point Solutions Group, a Salisbury, Md.-based managed IT services provider.

- Intelerad Medical Systems acquired PenRad Technologies, a Buffalo, Minn.-based breast imaging and lung screening software provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Summit Hydraulics, a Phoenix-based hydraulic valve and quick couplers supplier and North Branch Capital portfolio company, merged with Access Truck Parts, a Phoenix-based commercial water truck parts designer and distributor.  

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- CoinFund, a New York-based Web3 and crypto investment firm, raised $300 million for their first fund focused on founders across blockchain sub-sectors. 

- 2xN, a London-based tech fund, raised $120 million for its second fund focused on quantum, marketplaces, automotive, future of work, and edtech companies. 

PEOPLE

- Crossbeam, a New York-based venture capital firm, hired Sana Godhwani as vice president and Mili Raina as a senior associate. Formerly, Godhwani was with UBS and Raina was with Goldman Sachs

- Innovation Endeavors, a Palo Alto-based venture capital firm, hired Joel Dudley as a partner. Formerly, he was with Tempus Labs.

- Kainos Capital, a Dallas-based private equity firm, promoted Mike Perloski and Jacob Spitz to senior associate. 

- Norwest Venture Partners, a Palo Alto-based private equity firm, hired Brian Matesic as a life sciences investor. Formerly, he was with Blackstone Life Sciences

- Tailwater Capital, a Dallas-based private equity firm, hired John Schaufele as managing director, head of investor relations and fundraising, and Jill McMillan as managing director, head of communications and public affairs. Formerly, Schaufele was with Freestone and McMillan was with EnLink Midstream.

- Victress Capital, a Boston-based venture capital firm, promoted Yuriy Dovzhansky to a principal. 

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