Soylent is the popular meal replacement often satirized as a symbol of the current tech boom—“efficient, soulless, and naïve.” To borrow Vanity Fair’s words, it is “Ensure for tech bros and life-hackers,” and somewhat creepily named after Soylent Green. Soylent’s reputation may now be on the chopping block thanks to a spate of bad publicity over consumers reporting serious intestinal illnesses. In mid-October, Soylent stopped selling its food bars after these reports. Only a couple of weeks later, Soylent stopped sales of its flagship powder. Soylent claims that food intolerances, not food poisoning or bad ingredients, are responsible for consumers’ bad reactions.
This is not the first time Soylent has been embroiled in controversy. Even before this latest round of bad publicity, consumer-advocacy groups claimed that Soylent’s products contained dangerously high lead and cadmium levels and that it manufactured its products in dirty facilities.
Soylent is classified as a food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), carrying an official food label since 2014. As such, it is required to meet some basic safety standards. However, those standards are minimal. The FDA’s regulatory authority over most food is strictly limited to certain labeling and purity rules. This latest round of consumer complaints, whether caused by food intolerances or some serious problem with the product, suggests that there may be value to increased regulation.
What do you think? Could Increased FDA Oversight Have Stopped the Soylent Crisis?
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