Soylent halts sales of its powder as customers keep getting sick

Soylent halts sales of its powder as customers keep getting sick

Rob Rhinehart
Rob Rhinehart
Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times
Rob Rhinehart, Soylent's inventor, pours a glass of the drink in the company's offices in downtown L.A. last year.
Rob Rhinehart, Soylent's inventor, pours a glass of the drink in the company's offices in downtown L.A. last year. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Liquid meal maker Soylent is stopping sales of its flagship powder, warning that a handful of customers reported stomach sickness after consuming it.

Soylent had already halted shipments of its months-old nutrition bar because of customer complaints of diarrhea, vomiting and upset stomachs. In an announcement late Thursday, the Los Angeles company said there appears to be a common ingredient that’s causing trouble in the latest version of its nutritional powder and its snack bar. The products share several common ingredients, Soylent said, but the investigation isn’t complete.

Backed by more than $20 million in venture capital, Soylent has emerged as one of several popular start-ups hoping to change what and how people eat. Meant to be mixed with water or other liquids, the powder has enough fats, carbohydrates and other nutrients to replace a traditional meal, according to the company. People looking for a quick fix, such as software programmers in Silicon Valley, have become devotees.

On online forums, many Soylent users have continued to support the company -- some expressing disappointment that they won’t be able to restock their pantry with bars immediately.

Soylent said there shouldn’t be any issues with its premade drinks, which cost slightly more than just the powder. Twenty-eight meals worth of powder sells for $54.

The bar’s manufacturer, Betty Lou’s, has reportedly told other clients that it passed an FDA inspection this year and that the suspected issues don’t originate from its work. Soylent’s latest blog post backed the assertion. “Our tests all came back negative for food pathogens, toxins or outside contamination,” the company wrote.

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Soylent urged customers discomforted by version 1.6 of its powder to toss it. A newly formulated powder and bar that removes likely culprits will be available early next year at the latest, the company said. It vowed to share findings of its ongoing investigation with the FDA.

paresh.dave@latimes.com / PGP

Twitter: @peard33

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