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Soylent determines why its products were making people sick

Just one month after the 250-calorie Soylent Food Bar became available in the United States, the company has halted all shipments of the nutrition snack bar and advised consumers to throw out all bars currently in their possession. Detailed in an official blog post on the company site, Soylent issued this recall after a “small number” of customers reported gastrointestinal issues after eating a Food Bar. Just a few weeks later, the company is pulling more of its products, namely its latest powdered drink, Soylent 1.6.

Now, the company believes it’s identified the culprit behind all those complaints: algal flour.

“We are releasing new formulations of our powder mix and meal replacement bars early next year,” said Rob Rhinehart, Soylent’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Our new formulations will no longer contain algal flour.”

The ingredients in question were provided by TerraVia Holdings Inc., which manufactures algal products for a number of other large companies, including Unilever NV. Mark Brooks, a senior vice president at TerraVia, told Bloomberg that whole algal flour should not have been responsible for the reported ailments, and rather, that other Soylent ingredients (like soy protein isolate and glycerin) could’ve been to blame.

“Our algal flour has been used in more than 20 million servings of products, and we are aware of very few adverse reactions. In no cases was algal flour identified as the cause,” he wrote in an email.

In a previous blog post, Soylent noted, “For the past several weeks, we have worked aggressively to uncover why people were having these negative experiences. This has included product testing, an exhaustive industry search, and discussions with many of our suppliers. Our tests all came back negative for food pathogens, toxins or outside contamination.” All the same, however, customers are still reporting issues and apparently, they are linked to “a few ingredients that are specific to only our bars and Powder 1.6.”

Reports from customers varied between diarrhea to vomiting, many published publicly on Reddit as well as Twitter. Soylent added in its latest blog post, “Fitting with our desire to err on the side of caution, we are reformulating Bar and Powder 1.6 to remove the likely ingredients. Turnaround should be fairly quick. We expect both will available in early Q1 2017, if not before. We will resume shipping when the reformulation is complete.”

Soylent will be reaching out over email to anyone that purchased a Food Bar to offer a full refund.

In the statement published on the blog post, a Soylent representative writes, “Our customers place an enormous amount of trust in us each and every time they place an order. We in turn owe it to our customers to prioritize their health and well-being above all else. Until we are absolutely certain our products are safe, they will not be shipped. We are deeply sorry if any customer had any negative experiences after eating a Soylent Bar.”

Prior to the recall, Soylent stated the bars are analyzed for “rigorous physical, chemical, and microbiological criteria” during the production process as well as manufactured at a facility that gets inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. Designed to provide 12.5 percent of your daily nutritional requirements, the Food Bar is marketed as offering a significant amount of protein while limiting saturated fat and calorie intake. Prior to halting all sales, the company sold the Food Bar at roughly $2 per bar with additional discounts for continued subscriptions.

This article was originally published in October 2016. Updated on 11-07-2016 by Lulu Chang: Added news that algal flour has been identified as the culprit.

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