Soylent is pulling its meal replacement powder from the market in light of trickling reports of illness among customers. As Ars previously noted, the company already pulled its snack bars earlier this month after online customers said they had gastrointestinal complaints, some of them “violent.” However, in an update late Thursday, the company acknowledged that it had received a small number of similar complaints from customers using its latest powder line, Soylent 1.6. The company now thinks they are connected and the link may finally help them get to the root of the problem.
In an online blog post, Soylent said:
For the past few weeks, we’ve been working aggressively to find out why people had these negative experiences. This included product testing, an extensive industry search and discussions with many of our suppliers. Our tests were all negative for foodborne pathogens, toxins or outside contamination… Interestingly, we saw no similar complaints during the 1.5 formulation. This potential connection allows us to narrow the field down considerably as there are only a few ingredients specific to just our bars and Powder 1.6.
Ars contacted Soylent to ask what those ingredients are, but we haven’t received a response yet. We will update when we do. However, based on online ingredient lists for the three products, the most likely top suspects are whole wheat flour, isomaltooligosaccharide (a non-digestible, low-calorie sweetener made from short-chain carbohydrates), and a soy protein isolate.
When Ars last spoke to a source close to the company, they said soy protein was a likely culprit behind illnesses associated with the bars. According to the source, the bars contain a mixture of three soy protein products that may not have been evenly mixed throughout the bars. A high dose of one of the soy proteins in a strange bar could potentially cause an intolerance in some customers, which looks like digestive issues, the source explained. That scenario is plausible since the company has ruled out contamination issues and many of the sick customers had already ruled out allergies because they’d eaten the same bars and other Soylent products in the past with no issues.
In yesterday’s announcement, Soylent said it will work quickly to reformulate the bars and powder — perhaps reinstating Soylent 1.5 ingredient formulations — and bring both products back to the market in early 2017. The company’s other products, the Soylent drink and Coffiest, are not affected.
The company also said it will share data with the Food and Drug Administration to aid in ongoing research into the diseases and the problem ingredient.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.