A month ago, Soylent released Food Bars, a product that allegedly “offers the same complete nutrition [as Soylent 2.0] but in a lighter, more portable form factor”. (According to scientists, Soylent 2.0 does not offer complete nutrition.) Based on the Soylent subreddit and the company’s own message boards, these bars have also been making its customers very sick.
I think that the hypochondria on this subreddit can be a little irritating sometimes (“Is Soylent causing my left third toenail to turn yellow??”) however there seems to be some growing anecdotal evidence that food poisoning-like symptoms may be linked to Bar consumption...
Early in September, I experienced intense vomiting about 3-4 hours after eating a Food Bar. The vomiting lasted several hours. I think it was probably the worst vomiting episode I ever experienced. I did not experience diarrhea.
Another Reddit thread on Food Bars reports that they made a Redditor either “so nauseous [they] have to puke, followed by horrible diarrhea -option 2 [they] don’t get nauseous but still have uncontrollable diarrhea.” There’s a third thread too.
Now, Soylent has never faced any health code violations publicly, but last year, the company got in some trouble for reportedly violating the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act in California, which “requires companies to provide consumers with warnings on products that contain detectable amounts of harmful chemicals”. A non-profit called As You Sow filed legal action against Soylent due to the lead levels in their Soylent 1.5 powder, which were “12 to 25 times above California’s Safe Harbor level”. Of course, this was regarding a different product, but it’s still part of Soylent’s spotty history regarding product safety. At the very least, it raises interesting questions about how the FDA monitors Soylent, which might hope to be a tech company instead of a food company.
It’s unclear what standards Soylent bars have to adhere to, but they do come with the following warning label: “Children, women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant should consult their doctor before consuming Soylent Bar.”
Redditor rhaikh surmised that a single batch of the bars with the code “JUL17 1966” is the one making people sick. “They should recall this shit,” rhaikh wrote. Soylent also allegedly issued a refund to rhaikh. Yet BitBucket — a user on the Soylent’s own message board — reported that another batch with the code “14JUL17 0716" also induced vomiting. Raylingh, who created a thread on Soylent’s forum, reports that since the inception of the discussion a month ago, “there’s been 21 reports of vomiting”.
Whatever is causing Soylent customers to get ill doesn’t appear to be limited to a single bad batch. There’s a chance it could be the result of contamination, an ever-present risk when dealing with food products. Earlier this year, for example, there was an E. Coli outbreak that resulted in 4,500 tonnes of flour being recalled, and people are still suffering the consequences.
One Soylent-loving redditor called pm_me_your_moods bemoans, “[h]ow have these issues not been reported to the FDA? This is a consumer health issue and is completely unacceptable for any company.”
Soylent sent Gizmodo the company’s official statement on the matter:
We have become aware via our support channels of a limited number of instances of people experiencing indigestion or discomfort following consumption of our Soylent bar. To date the number of complaints we have received represents less than 0.03% of the number of bars we have sold. While this is an extremely small number of complaints, and all packaged and prepared food products have some risk of intolerance, we take every single one very seriously.
The safety and quality of our bars is verified via a comprehensive food industry standard program. First, we exclusively source from qualified suppliers and use only those ingredients that include a certificate of analysis (COA) for rigorous physical, chemical and microbiological criteria. Second, the bars are manufactured at an FDA inspected, GFSI certified facility under a thorough food safety and quality program. Lastly, the bars are subjected to an additional microbiological testing program before being released from the co-manufacturer and sent to our warehouses.
After these reports, we have retrieved remaining bars from our consumers and have personally consumed many of the remaining bars without adverse effects. We have also sent them for further microbiological testing and all tests have come back negative. Based on this we remain very confident in the safety of the bars.
A certain subpopulation of individuals may have an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to ingredients such as soy and / or sucralose, or certain vitamin and mineral sources and should consult with their doctor before continuing to consume these products.