Recent Food Recalls: Tara Flour

Posted on Behalf of Neva Jacobs, Heidi O'Neill, Fian Louie, and Alana Acuna

Recent Recalls

Following consumer complaints of gastrointestinal illness and abnormal liver function, Daily Harvest voluntarily recalled their French Lentil & Leek Crumbles frozen product on June 17, 2022. This product was sold online and through retail stores, and was distributed in the U.S. To date, over 300 adverse illness events have been reported, including more than 100 hospitalizations. According to Daily Harvest, testing for hepatitis A, norovirus, aflatoxin and additional mycotoxins, Listeria, E. Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus, B. Cereus, and Clostridium species was negative; pesticides (unspecified), egg, soy, milk, and gluten were also not detected in product samples.

Similar adverse health effects were reported following the ingestion of Revive Superfoods Smoothies, sold online and distributed throughout Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a food recall warning for certain Revive Superfoods brand smoothie and oat products due to possible norovirus contamination of raspberries. While norovirus is associated with gastroenteritis, it is not associated with liver disease.  

A common ingredient: Tara Flour

A common ingredient in the Daily Harvest product and the Revive Superfoods smoothie is tara flour. As of July 20, 2022, Daily Harvest has confirmed it believes illnesses were related to tara flour but has not determined the cause. Tara gum has been used as a thickener and stabilizer for decades, while tara flour is a recently-developed plant-based protein food additive. While both tara gum and tara flour come from the seed pods of the Caesalpinia spinosa tree, tara flour comes from the germ while tara gum is derived from the endosperm of the seed pod.

What do regulatory agencies say about tara products and food safety?

Tara gum  is recognized as acceptable for use in foods by the European Union (EU), Canada (Health Canada), Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, it is classified as “Adequate Daily Intake (ADI) not specified” status by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which is the highest safety category. In the U.S., the use of tara gum specifically as a thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier, and gelling agent in the amount of 0.5% or less is “self-affirmed” as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This indicates a panel of experts assessed the safety of an ingredient and informs the FDA through GRAS notification of their determination without a formal submission to FDA. Tara flour, on the other hand, has not yet been evaluated by the FDA.

What is known about the potential toxicity of tara products? 

Tara gum has been evaluated for acute toxicity in rodents, with oral doses of up to 630 mg/kg showing no toxic effects. This is equivalent to a typical woman in her 20’s consuming approximately 3 tablespoons of tara gum. Repeated oral studies in rats, mice and dogs found no significant adverse effects of tara gum at doses of up to 12,000 mg/kg per day in rats, of up to 20,000 mg/kg per day in mice, and up to 1,250 mg/kg per day in dogs. There have been no reports of acute liver toxicity in animals resulting from tara gum consumption.  Tara flour has not been evaluated to date, so little is known about its safety and toxicity. It is important to note that while tara flour is the suspected source of illness, it is currently unclear whether the tara flour used in these products was contaminated (testing is still underway) or otherwise adulterated.

ChemRisk scientists have extensive professional experience understanding potential risks related to consumer products and foods. Please visit Cardno, now Stantec’s Food and Beverage page for more information or contact Heidi O'Neill or Neva Jacobs to learn more about our capabilities.