Tech by VICE

Soylent Blamed an Algae Product for Its Customers Illnesses and It Backfired

TerraVia says the company was too quick to blame the algae products.

by Madison Margolin
Dec 20 2016, 9:35pm

Image: Wikimedia

It's been a rocky period for Soylent, the tech industry's favorite meal replacement, and it's about to get worse.

First, its customers became violently sick from one of its products. Then the company pinned the blame for their clients' gastrointestinal issues on algae ingredients in the bars and powders. All Soylent's algae-based ingredients came from plant-based food and nutritional supply company TerraVia, so now TerraVia is not happy. So unhappy, in fact, that they've immediately suspended all ingredient shipments to Soylent.

Read More: Soylent Blames Algae Product for Customer's Violent Illness

In a press release, TerraVia said that continuing to work with Soylent would be damaging to its business. TerraVia also claims that it tried collaborating with Soylent to investigate the gastrointestinal issues a few of its customers experienced.

"To TerraVia's knowledge, there has not been a rigorous investigation of the root causes of the GI problems before releasing a new version with Powder 1.7, and, to date, Soylent has made no data available that would substantiate its decision to remove algal flour from its products," the statement said.

Apu Mody, CEO of TerraVia, said the company was "surprised and disappointed" that Soylent blamed algal flour without conducting a full investigation of the 40 ingredients in their products, as would be standard practice in the food industry.

Food industry expert, George A. Burdock, Ph.D., also said in a statement that Soylent's conclusion was premature and lacking additional investigation. "I do not believe whole algal flour or any single ingredient (at normal, sub-clinical use levels) can be identified as the causative agent," he said. "There is just no evidence to indicate a cause-effect relationship for a single ingredient in such complex mixture."

The algal flour TerraVia supplied to Soylent complies with FDA regulations and is classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). It's been used in more than 20 million servings in other products and until how, has never been blamed for consumers' illness.

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