Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Soylent Bars: Literal Toxic Masculinity

Description: Cartoon of a white man with eyeglasses wearing a green sweater,
contemplating a glass of liquid.He declares, "Removing my taste buds has
increased drinking efficiency by 4%!" Illustration by Brad Jonas.
Soylent, the much touted "meal replacement" drink substance has gone from mixable pastes to coffee-flavored drinks to its latest offering: a Soylent bar. Soylent's consistency (in both the ingredient sense and in the promise of never having to worry about cooking, preparing or eating something different sense) has been presented by the company and it fans as a feature and key selling point.

Something that's also been consistent has been Soylent being unsafe to eat . In 2013, a documentary by Vice showed rats scurrying around the factory where Soylent was made. Despite repeated claims of commitment to food safety, browsing the subreddit devoted to Soylent shows reports of every few batches released this year have come with an extra ingredient-- mold. And while the recently released breakfast bars haven't had mold, there have been enough consumers of the bar that have reported becoming violently ill, in one case leading to a trip to the ER.

A community manager on the official Soylent forum responded to one users concerns about transparency thusly:

I do tell you info. I generally tell you more info. But i'd rather have all the info before I speak. In this case we are testing bars. We've eaten bars sent to us ourselves. Myself included. All our evidence leans towards people having an ingridient[sic] intolerance.

Okay, so the community manager actually trotted out the "I ate some and I'm perfectly fine defense" but they're just a person on a message board. Surely the actual company in charge of making Soylent wouldn't use the same--

Description: A screenshot of Rosa Labs' statement to the press that reads: "After these reports, we have retrieved remaining bars from our consumers and have personally consumed many of the remaining bars without adverse effects. We have also sent them for further microbiological testing and all tests have come back negative. Based on this we remain very confident in the safety of the bars. A certain subpopulation of individuals may have an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to ingredients such as soy and / or sucralose, or certain vitamin and mineral sources and should consult with their doctor before continuing to consume these products."
Okay, so the actual makers of the Soylent bar did resort to the "we ate it and we're fine" defense too. And instead of contacting everyone who bought the tainted batches to initiate a recall, they're just telling people to send them in after they get sick. According to the FDA's online database, the current factory where Soylent is made hasn't been inspected since 2014. Then again, the tech-bro founder behind Soylent (which takes its name from the sci-fi movie "Soylent Green" where the titular food was made from human corpses) had this to say about shopping for groceries:
I have not set [foot] in a grocery store. Nevermore will I bumble through endless confusing aisles like a pack-donkey searching for feed while the smell of rotting flesh fills my nostrils and fluorescent lights sear my eyeballs and sappy love songs torture my ears.
Hey was also fined and charged by the city of Los Angeles earlier this year for his "experiment in sustainable living" that was really just an abandoned shipping container and port-a-potty covered in graffiti and trash.

Remember how in Harry Potter they had magic jellybeans that could taste like any flavor, from cheesecake to human earwax? If a melange of misguided libertarian, bro-grammer culture, start-up philosophy, engineer's curse, and insecure masculinity would have a flavor, it would be Soylent.

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