- Soylent has ceased sales of its recently launched food bars and is recalling all existing bars on the market, asking consumers to discard them after several reports of illnesses, according to Engadget.
- Consumers took to forums on Soylent's websites and threads on the website Reddit to report that some of the bars caused them gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, Ars Technica reported earlier this week.
- The company does not know what is causing these illnesses. Pathogen tests have come back with negative results, and many consumers dismissed allergen issues because they had consumed similar Soylent products in the past.
Instead of calling the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to request a recall of Soylent's problematic products, consumers took to online forums and websites like Reddit to voice their complaints with both the company and other consumers. It's atypical for something as serious as a product recall to arise from this kind of consumer communication.
As of Friday morning, the FDA had not called for an official recall of Soylent's food bars, though the company confirmed that the agency performs an annual inspection of its facility. This makes the company's voluntary recall all the more nontraditional, and shows how companies might respond to product-related consumer illnesses in the digital age.
The FDA may be holding off because Soylent already took the initiative to notify consumers of its voluntary recall. By being transparent and taking initiative based on online consumer comments, the company has attempted to demonstrate honesty and open communication. Soylent certainly doesn't want to lose these customers in an already challenged and crowded health beverage category.
Now the company is investigating whether food intolerance could be the culprit. That could be because each bar may use up to three different types of soy proteins, the levels of which are inconsistent between individual bars. The FDA is very clear about protocols for reporting and labeling allergens, but there may not be as much regulation to deal with things like quantity and composition of ingredients.