Here’s how it went down: Gizmodo reported that Soylent’s Food Bars were making people throw up and suffer from “uncontrollable diarrhoea.” In particular, we wrote about how bars with a specific expiration date—July 14, 2017—had sent some customers to A&E. This week, Soylent recalled the bars.
It turns out, that was only the beginning. Today, I happened upon a box of the ostensibly poisonous bars sitting in Gizmodo headquarters, the word RECALLED scribbled crudely on the box with Sharpie. Like the serpent tempted Eve with the apple, the box echoed my name. Eve, the box cooed, try me. You will not certainly die. Driven by my hunger for knowledge and desire to win some sort of Bravery in Journalism award, I decided I must taste the poison bars.
“Eve,” Gizmodo managing editor Mario Aguilar tried to reason. “As a boss, I can’t tell you to eat one.”
“Do not eat that,” editor-in-chief Katie Drummond chimed in.
“Do not eat that and blog about it,” Mario reiterated.
But I’m a risk taker. A boundary pusher. A selfless type of person who values a good blog more than my own health and safety.
The expiration date on the bars at Gizmodo HQ was July 18th, 2017, and the bars that allegedly made people ill had a July 14 expiration date, so I prayed for the best and braced myself for the worst.
Soylent was initially marketed as a meal replacement, which the company claimed offered “complete nutrition.” Then some poor journalists subsisted solely on the beverage for a month to horrifying results, and scientists disputed that “complete nutrition” claim. The company now markets itself as “a simple, efficient and affordable food that possesses what a body needs to be healthy,” without asserting you should be replacing regular food with Soylent products.
The Food Bar was not my first experience with the Soylent family. I first tried the 1.6—Soylent powder you mix with water—at a friend’s house earlier this year. I sampled an undrinkably bad Soylentini at an Andreessen Horowitz press event in July, bringing home a bottle of the premixed 2.0, which was totally tolerable. The next month, I reviewed the Soylent breakfast beverage, Coffiest, which I deemed “fine,” but would not recommend to a friend. Ever since, my fridge has been depressed by bottles and bottles of Coffiest. Occasionally, I’ll take a sip when I’m hungry but not really in the mood to eat—ostensibly this is what Soylent is made for—but overall, I’m not super into the pancake batter flavor that Soylent beverages offer.
The Soylent food bar was released in August of this year. But after dozens of people on Reddit, Soylent’s own forums, and later, in my inbox, reported getting sick, the company halted sales of the bars and instructed customers to throw out what they had left “as a precautionary measure.”
Upon unwrapping the bar, the first thing I noticed was a familiar smell—one I recognised from my high school days, a period in my life when I often snacked on Luna Bars.
The bar also tasted like a Luna Bar, but without any crunch. I sensed an accent of peanut butter, perhaps, even though it’s not an ingredient. Ironically, this is by far Soylent’s most delicious product, likely because it resembles other food I’ve eaten before.
Had I not reported so extensively on the bars making people ill, with one man telling me that the hospital had to pump him with three litres of saline before he could walk on his own, I would’ve probably eaten even more of it. But alas, my knowledge of the bars’ tainted legacy weighed on me, so I threw the rest in the trash. By 4PM I had neither vomited nor suffered diarrhoea as a result of my experiment.