back to article No Soylent for Santa after key ingredient supply is choked off

If you were planning to leave out cookies and a generous glass of Soylent for Santa, you should forget all that and hoard your stocks for yourself. A key supplier has announced it is cutting off the super-gruel maker. TerraVia, which provides the algae-based flour and oils used in Soylent, said that it was unhappy with being …

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  1. Magani
    WTF?

    Absolutely fabulous.... maybe?

    TerraVia's algal flour is certified as "generally recognized as safe" by the US Food and Drug Administration.

    Is this damming with faint praise, or does the US FDA like to hedge its bets?

    1. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

      Re: Absolutely fabulous.... maybe?

      It just means that the FDA's staff scientists have a consensus that no damage or lasting harm will come to you with their current understanding of the additive if you ingest it or are otherwise exposed to it.

      Thing is, GRAS substances and compounds can and do sometimes have side effects which aren't desirable, but if there's no permanent damage it can still be considered GRAS. This stuff could make you explode in the shitter like a Nuclear Test, but as long as it doesn't cause any damage to your GI tract, it'd still be GRAS.

      If there was any doubt, basically if there's not a consensus, the substance would be regulated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and can usually still be marketed within limits unless its proven to be carcinogenic, teratogenic or mutagenic and even then sometimes it can still be sold with warning labels.

    2. Vincent Ballard
      Pint

      Re: Absolutely fabulous.... maybe?

      They're bureaucrats. They use the exact designation written in statute without regard for how it sounds to a layman. Other products with the same designation include tuna oil, carrot fibre, dried orange pulp, xanthan gum (which anyone who reads ingredients on shop-bought products will be familiar with), and even ethanol (hence the icon). And, bizarrely, carbon monoxide, several times. The mind boggles.

      1. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

        Re: Absolutely fabulous.... maybe?

        Yep, and most of those compounds/substances can have side effects in significant enough quantities, Orange pulp can act as a cathartic as can sorbitol and fish oil and all three are very common. Ethanol has obvious side effects which I don't think need mentioning, Xanthan gum has a major laxative effect, and CO can obviously suffocate or poison you.

        They're still considered GRAS as you'd generally have to ingest a massive amount to have any side effect (except for maybe CO). The only people who are going to actually go look at the GRAS lists are Food Scientists, FDA staff, Lawyers, and maybe the executive office of the President when time comes to update the Code of Federal Regulations. Nobody else really cares.

    3. Old Handle

      Re: Absolutely fabulous.... maybe?

      As I understand it, GRAS basically means "historically accepted as something people eat". I'm not certain how true that is of algal flour... but other forms of algae have been eaten long enough I guess. I think there's a way to obtain GRAS status through scientific study as well, but presumably it's abbreviated compared to what you'd have to do to prove some completely original synthetic chemical is safe for food.

  2. Cubical Drone

    Wrong ingredients

    If they would have just made the stuff out of people, like they are supposed to, they wouldn't have this problem.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Wrong ingredients

      They're going by the book Make Room! Make Room!, not the movie. There's a reason for the name SoyLent (hint: it's an acronym).

      1. Ralph B

        Re: Wrong ingredients

        > There's a reason for the name SoyLent (hint: it's an acronym).

        Actually it's a portmanteau of soy and lentil.

        Interestingly, the book (written in 1966) predicted a US population of 344 million by 1999, with the masses fed on a vegan diet. And now, in 2016, with a US population of 325 million and veganism is spreading like a virus, it looks like Harry nailed it.

        1. Graham Dawson

          Re: Wrong ingredients

          It also predicted that such a population would be unsustainable without extreme rationing. This is evidently not the case.

          1. Lotaresco Silver badge

            Re: Wrong ingredients

            "It also predicted that such a population would be unsustainable without extreme rationing. This is evidently not the case."

            Extreme rationing is already in place. Food is rationed by the use of electronic and paper tokens that can be exchanged for food. Those lowest in the social order get fewer tokens and thus either have to eat less or eat lower quality food.

            Harrison's other prediction that intensive food production would create dustbowls and lead to wholesale extermination of life in the oceans is also coming true.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Wrong ingredients

              "Those lowest in the social order get fewer tokens and thus either have to eat less or eat lower quality food."

              Please don't spread this myth. Good food doesn't have to be expensive. Italian cuisine generally regarding to be one of the best in the world is based on the concept of "cucina povera". Someone can eat healthy, tasty and filling food made from cheap principal ingredients like flour and vegetables.

              A McDonalds meal, pizza or frozen "ready-meal" costs more than a basic home cooked dinner.

              perfectly good food costs less than the junk food most in the "lower social order

              1. Lotaresco Silver badge

                Re: Wrong ingredients

                "Please don't spread this myth. Good food doesn't have to be expensive. Italian cuisine generally regarding to be one of the best in the world is based on the concept of "cucina povera"."

                I have lived in Italy since 2000, in one of the best food producing regions of Italy. I'm not spreading myths. You seem to be responding to something in your head, not something that I said.

                Yes, "poor cooking" exists and it consists of making the most of little and using ingredients that other people won't touch. It's not exactly "cheap" as it has come to be defined across at the very least the English speaking world. Either you put lots of time and energy (literally in terms of fuel) into the cooking. Or you use a good, expensive, ingredient and spin it out. Much of our local "cucina povera" is food gathered from the land. For this you need to (a) spend a lot of time looking for it, (b) Own the land or be willing to steal from someone else's land (c) have a laboriously acquired knowledge and (d) have an element of luck since some of these things will kill you if either improperly prepared or mistaken for something harmless.

                In the real world, people pay someone else to do the cultivation and selection and buy in a shop. Hence bumping up the price.

                Cheap food is all around, there's a reason that it is cheap. It's either adulterated (see the many olive oil scandals[1], horsemeat in ready meals etc) or it's produced using low quality ingredients (for example a lot of "food" sold in the UK is based on starch, sugar, fat and flavouring in variable proportions. My wife and I refer to the fact that the British diet contains a lot of "custard" with, for example, pasta sauce being a watery custard made with vinegar and tomato puree for flavouring, to be poured over a "pasta" that contains soya flour, rice flour and potato starch.

                There's a reason that people are seriously overweight this century - easy availability of cheap, empty calories. Even "cucina povera" looks expensive compared to that.

                [1] I produce about a tonne of olive oil a year. I can sell every drop to the local co-operative at the rock bottom price of 7 euros a litre. Because we grow specialist varieties I can sell single variety oils at 12 euros a litre to the up-market oil mill around the corner from the farm. Supposedly olive oil from the same region is sold in UK discount supermarkets at £2.99 a litre. Think about it how can that happen?

            2. Graham Dawson

              Re: Wrong ingredients

              You must have a very peculiar idea of plenty if you want to call the glut of food that the western world consumes "rationing". In the story, the US population was forced into cities so that enough land could be provided to feed the majority a very basic diet, while a tiny minority consumed as luxuries things that even those under the poverty line take for granted.

              If you can look around and think that the US, or the west in general, is in that state then you must be wearing some seriously tinted shades.

        2. Lotaresco Silver badge

          Re: Wrong ingredients

          " it looks like Harry nailed it."

          Two authors of that era nailed it, Harry Harrison and John Brunner. The latter's "Stand on Zanzibar" is still a good and relevant read and it deserves its position in the SF Masterworks collection, not least for the invention of Hipcrime and for correctly predicting current world population and the social problems (terrorism, mass shootings, suicide bombings, kitchen sink biowar) that would be associated with too many people jammed into too little space.

          1. croaker
            Pint

            Re: Wrong ingredients

            +1 and a pint for the Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar" reference. A most excellent book

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wrong ingredients

      Don't give the Man in the High Castle ideas for a Final Solution of what do about the Majority who voted against him.

  3. David Roberts Silver badge

    Withholding the oils?

    Given that the flour isn't being used any more then the oils are the only thing left - I think.

    It could have been made clearer, of course.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Withholding the oils?

      "It could have been made clearer, of course."

      Now that the algal flour is gone, any further gastrointestinal effusions should of course be clearer.

    2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Withholding the oils?

      Sucralose alone taken in high quantities will evacuate your nether end quite thoroughly.

  4. Youngone Silver badge
    Happy

    Lunch

    I've just finished eating a salad made with lettuce and cucumbers I grew myself (among other ingredients).

    God, I'm feeling like such a smug bastard right now.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Lunch

      I've just had a sandwich made with Asda cheese and onion sandwich filler and thick Salt 'n' Vinegar crisps.

      Lush!

  5. VinceH Silver badge

    '"We are surprised and disappointed that Soylent rushed to imply that algal flour is to blame and removed the ingredient..."'

    "Soylent announced it was cutting the flour out of the new version 1.7 of its product..."

    Well, considering the above, I'm betting the answer to this...

    "Soylent has yet to comment on this bust up with TerraVia, and on how the boycott will affect supplies to people who think that chewing is too much like hard work."

    ...is not at all.

    Shades of:

    "You're dumped!"

    "Well, you can't dump be because I've already dumped you!"

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re:"You're dumped!"

      You're all dumping. FTFY.

  6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Relaunch

    As a cure of constipation

  7. LaeMing Silver badge
    Go

    It's pooople.

    Soylent is poople!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      FAIL

      Re: It's pooople.

      Should they perhaps change the name to Soylent Brown?

  8. CanadianMacFan

    I'll go with the supplier

    When it comes to Soylent I'll tend to believe the other person first. At the beginning I was interested in it but then I started to look into the company and the founder. The creator is just not all there. Instead of doing laundry he's quoted as getting new garments shipped over from China and donating the used ones to charity because it takes less water to create the new ones than to launder the old ones. Many problems with that line of thinking. So if he's anywhere near the investigation into what was making people sick then I wouldn't trust the results.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a load of shit

    see title

    1. druck
      Facepalm

      Re: What a load of shit

      Algae is for fish, not people. Stop eating this shit and get some meat down yourself.

  10. Demosthenes Locke

    From what I gathered, the 1.6 version that caused the rectal ruckus had changed from the 1.5 version only slightly -- primarily, in the addition of that algal flour. Since that was the only substantive change, then problems ensued, it's only reasonable to suspect the new ingredient you just added. It's like coding. If you add a line to a program that was working fine, and it starts suddenly failing, it's a good idea to check that line you just added to see if that's what's caused the problem to surface. It still might not be that line that's failing, but it might have caused side effects in logic in other areas, making the code fail.

    Same thing here. The flour itself is probably not BAD, but it may be interacting with the other ingredients that were already there in a fashion that was unexpected. The wise thing is to remove it the time being while they run laboratory tests to find out what exactly was happening to cause the distress. Unless TerraVia thinks it's ethical to perform those tests on the CUSTOMERS, and leave it IN?

    1. Lotaresco Silver badge

      "Unless TerraVia thinks it's ethical to perform those tests on the CUSTOMERS, and leave it IN?"

      My guess is that TerraVia doesn't give a hoot about ethics and just wants to sell as much of their pond slime as possible.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Xanthan gum, sucralose, and artificial sweeteners" - those can all cause intestinal distress. So can algae-based drinks. I speak from experience. Best not to binge on any of that stuff.

    1. Adam JC

      Agreed, I'm massively allergic to Aspartame (It can hospitalise me, believe it or not, even in small amounts) - As well as a few others. Give me good ole' sugar any day of the week! :(

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        "I'm massively allergic to Aspartame (It can hospitalise me, believe it or not, even in small amounts)"

        Whereas I have no doubt that you suffer adverse health consequences from consuming aspartame, I'm sceptical that you are allergic to aspartame. This is because aspartame is a small molecule, a dipeptide, and the immune system is most unlikely to have an immune response to such a small molecule (which is fairly instantly digested to phenylalanine and aspartic acid when consumed.) It may be that you are using "allergic" in the sense of "makes me ill" rather than in its strict sense of "causes an immune reaction". This could be tested easily by performing a skin test.

        Most of the rubbish talked about aspartame on the "woo" websites is drivel written by the likes of "The Awful Poo Lady." Treat anything written about aspartame by "naturopaths" and "holistic allergy experts" with a giant dose of salt.

        Aspartame causes a real problem for people who cannot metabolise phenylalanine. I'm hoping that you have been checked for phenylketonuria (PKU), because if you have that you have bigger problems than just aspartame intolerance.

        1. Infernoz Bronze badge
          Boffin

          The toxicity of Aspartame (a re-purposed pharmaceutical) is not just hearsay and anecdotal e.g. the 21st century, full-lifespan rat lab study, with a control group of rats, by scientists in Italy, discovered that Aspartame caused the significant growth of various cancers at comparable relative intact that humans may reasonably consume from food and drink! I suggest that whatever is triggering those cancers may cause harmful reactions in humans too.

          The US FDA was well aware of the toxic effects of Aspartame, and blocked it's approval until Ronald Reagan appointed a new head with serious financial conflict of interest, who forced its approval!

          I think you will find that Aspartame is rapidly disappearing from food because people got the message that this artificial compound is harmful, and business had to take notice, unfortunately it was often stupidly replaced by the re-purposed Chlorine based pesticide Sucralose, rather than Stevia.

          It has been reported in various places, including Science Daily, that _all_ artificial sweeteners are bad even if only because of unhelpful side effects, including unwanted effects on insulin and hunger.

          1. Lotaresco Silver badge
            Boffin

            @Infernoz

            "The toxicity of Aspartame (a re-purposed pharmaceutical) is not just hearsay and anecdotal e.g. the 21st century, full-lifespan rat lab study, with a control group of rats, by scientists in Italy, discovered that Aspartame caused the significant growth of various cancers at comparable relative intact that humans may reasonably consume from food and drink!"

            The toxicity of aspartame is not just hearsay, it's a downright lie. It's not true. Aspartame is not toxic, the only way that you could conceivably kill yourself with aspartame is to drop a large container of aspartame onto your head.

            Your claim that aspartame is a re-purposed pharmaceutical is also untrue. Aspartame was synthesised as an intermediate in the production of the hormone gastrin (a naturally occurring hormone) and accidentally discovered to be sweet by James M. Schlatter when he licked his finger. It was never intended to be a pharmaceutical, was not part of the path of synthesis of a pharmaceutical, was not registered as a pharmaceutical.

            Sucralose is not and never has been a pesticide. Sucralose was synthesised by Tate & Lyle from sucrose with the aim of producing a sweetener that was sweeter than sucrose. It has been tested extensively and no harmful effects are associated with the consumption of sucralose. Common table salt contains chlorine BTW, in the form of bio-available ions. Not only that, but your body needs chlorine in order to produce hydrochloric acid in the stomach to digest food. Your stomach produces six grams of chlorine per day to maintain the 1.5 litres of 0.1M HCl in your stomach. If you are worried about chlorine in your body, you have a giant problem. Your body contains about 100g of chlorine.

            The chlorine in sucralose is co-valently bonded to sucrose. Sucralose is not broken down in the human body hence the chlorine in sucralose is excreted. All of it.

            You are scaremongering.

            The effects reported by the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center were observed after feeding Sprague-Dawley rats a dose of 4,000 mg/kg aspartame. This report from 2006 has since been debunked by both the European Food Safety Authority and the US National Cancer Institute. The doses given to the rats were enormous, equivalent to a human being consuming 300 grams of aspartame per day. The acceptable daily intake of aspartame is 40mg/kg per day, one hundredth of the amount fed to rats in the CMCRC study.

            I'm gobsmacked that you have the sheer effrontery to add the "technical content" icon to your post which was the usual scaremongering "woo" which contained zero technical content and failed to reference the source mentioned; presumably because you knew that the study referenced has been thoroughly debunked.

        2. Adam JC

          FYI, I suffer from Crohn's disease. My last relapse was due to drinking a soft drink containing aspartame and is a known trigger for me as is gravy. Instead of the word 'allergic', would you prefer I used the words 'My digestive system cannot tolerate'? I don't quite understand why I got downvoted here, my clinicial dietician told me I'm allergic to aspartame, it's not something I just made up.

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    I am repeating myself, but:

    Re-brand as cure for constipation. Problem solved. Profit!

  13. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Remind me...

    What is the point of this product?

    Are people so divorced from life that they willingly consume this instead of, say, food?

    Why?

    1. smartypants

      Re: Remind me...

      I knew someone at college who would only eat white things*. He was white too. Very white. And a little unwell lots of the time.

      Perhaps he is the tip of the massive iceberg that is the market for this gloop. (It is white isn't it?)

      (*except sultanas. We never got to the bottom of this exception but it fascinated the whole corridor)

      1. Old Handle

        Re: Remind me...

        It's beige, so that's not it.

        I think the idea that it's intended to replace food completely is pretty much hype. I'm sure a few people really use it that way, but mostly I think it's just a convenience food. For the record I've tried the stuff and found it inoffensive. With a little sweetener and flavoring, you can even bring it up to mildly pleasant! For lunch on the go or breakfast in a hurry it's a fine option.

        Also it's cheap, at $1.80 per "meal". I don't think that's a big consideration for most of the people who buy it, but at least you don't feel like you're getting ripped off.

        The only bad thing is the shelf life isn't particularly impressive, so it's really not a good option for apocalypse supplies.

        1. mosw

          Re: Remind me...

          "The only bad thing is the shelf life isn't particularly impressive, so it's really not a good option for apocalypse supplies."

          If they could get the self life up to 4 years then it maybe worth keeping around. Just in case.

      2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: Remind me...

        I suspect this is merely a form of OCD. Excessive control of something not important.

    2. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Remind me...

      "Why?"

      Because people are stupid. There are significant numbers of people who want to be ill, because it apparently makes them feel "special" and "cared for". So if they are not "lucky" enough to be genuinely ill they will manufacture an illness that requires them to spend a fortune on "health food". There's an entire industry based on providing appropriate levels of woo for these needy individuals. Very little of the "gluten free", "lactose free" etc "food" is consumed by people who have a genuine medical condition.

      Just think if anyone is daft enough to buy a tiny bottle of water or sugar pills in the belief that these will do anything other than line the pockets of a quack doctor then they are daft enough to consume soya flour etc.

      One of the things that made me laugh was "almond milk". I grow almonds and I know that it takes a lot of almonds to make even a pint of almond milk. Given how much they cost to produce that would make a pint of almond milk cost at least £30, possibly £50. So how do they sell it at about 2-3 times the price of a pint of milk? That's easy, most of it isn't almonds they pad it out with all sort of things like barley, cornflour etc. All the things that a lot of these anaemic health victims will tell you they can't eat but "Almond milk is like, you know, really good for me." <sigh>

      And then there's "Organic" food... grrrrrrrrrrrrr,

      1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: Remind me...

        My partner is honest-to-$deity coeliac and has welcomes the gluten-free fad, and it makes her choice of food, both in the supermarkets and in restaurants, so much wider. But she says she has to read the ingredients like a hawk, because 'gluten-free' can be interpreted very freely by 'wholefood' types. For, instance, she found one brand did not understand the different between 'wheat free' and 'gluten free' and merrily bunged in barley and oats at every turn

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Remind me...

          because 'gluten-free' can be interpreted very freely by 'wholefood' types. For, instance, she found one brand did not understand the different between 'wheat free' and 'gluten free' and merrily bunged in barley and oats at every turn

          If you're in the UK, contact Trading Standards because the brand is breaking food labelling laws which require all major allergen sources (including barley and oats) to be clearly listed in bold type.

      2. Justicesays

        Re: Remind me...

        'So how do they sell it at about 2-3 times the price of a pint of milk?'

        In the UK the ingredient labeling is a lot stricter than (say) the US.

        https://www.alpro.com/uk/products/drinks/almond/unsweetened

        Almonds (2%).

        You may as well drink water and eat a couple of almonds.

  14. Morteus
    Headmaster

    Interesting, but...

    ... can you make up your mind how to spell Solyent?

  15. Dabooka Silver badge
    WTF?

    I'm clearly not down with the kids

    As I don't have a clue what soylent is. I know it sounds terrible, that much I've figured out.

    1. Morteus

      Re: I'm clearly not down with the kids

      It's a 1973 dystopian Charlton Heston movie, based on a 1966 Harry Harrison story.

      I won't elaborate further in case you want to watch the film (old, but still well worth a look).

      Go on and 'get down with the kids' :)

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