In a letter to “valued customers and clients,” seen by FoodNavigator-USA, the company’s food safety and quality manager Wayne Warner does not mention Soylent by name as per the company policy of not naming clients for whom it co-manufactures.
However, he notes that Betty Lou’s had been cited by many media outlets “in conjunction with one of our co-manufacturing customers [ie. soylent],” given that Soylent had itself listed Betty Lou’s as the manufacturer of its bars on its website (although Soylent has since removed all references to its co-packers from the site and now simply states that all its products are ‘made in the US’).
He added: “We do want to assure all of our customers that the issue being mentioned on some reporting sites did not originate from our facility. None of your brands are affected by these isolated incidents.
“Betty Lou’s maintains a very robust food safety program. Our allergen verification programs and environmental programs exceeds regulatory and GFSI standards. We have developed a history of regulatory compliance and are already meeting the new FSMA standards required for the future.”
Betty Lou’s: 'The issues with the bars did not result from any condition or processes that was associated with our facility'
Addressing media reports that the company had not had an FDA inspection since 2014, he noted that in fact, “We receive an annual FDA contracted inspection every year. The last one was conducted in 2016. Betty Lou’s is proud to announce we successfully passed our SQF desk audit on October 5, 2016 with a score of 100% compliance with no deficiencies found. Our final certification will take place on November 8, 2016.
“We completed a NSF Food Safety System Audit on October 22, 2015 with a score of 97% and no critical or major deficiencies were found. Additionally, we had an FDA compliance audit conducted at our current facility on January 6, 2016 with one minor non-compliance.”
'They have tested the bars for hundreds of potential issues'
Asked by FoodNavigator-USA to clarify what he meant when he said that the issues “did not originate from our facility,” he said: “We do manufacture the Soylent bars. We co-manufacture for many brands and generally do not disclose who are customers are. The issues with the bars did not result from any condition or processes that was associated with our facility.”
He added:“I cannot speak for Soylent, but I know they have tested the bars for hundreds of potential issues. Many bars of this type have ingredients in them that people can be sensitive to.
"The FDA has identified eight allergens as potentially hazardous [the FDA requires food manufacturers to separate out the so-called 'big 8' allergens on food labels - milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, treenuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans although it acknowledges that many other ingredients can cause allergic reactions] but the truth of the matter is that people can have sensitivities to hundreds of ingredients.”
Soylent: This issue does not appear to affect our other drinks and powder
In a blog post earlier in the week, Soylent said that it had temporarily halted shipments of its new Soylent bar amid reports that “a small number of our customers have experienced gastrointestinal issues” after consuming it, but said the cause of the problem remained a mystery.
The Los Angeles-based start-up added that it was “deeply sorry if any customer had any negative experiences after eating a Soylent Bar,” and would be reaching out via e-mail to all bar customers to offer a full refund, adding:
“After hearing from our customers [contributors to Soylent’s online discussion forums have reported a range of issues from nausea to vomiting and diarrhea shortly after consuming the bars], we immediately began investigating the cause of the issue and whether it was linked to a problem with the Bars. So far we have not yet identified one and this issue does not appear to affect our other drinks and powder [which contain a similar list of ingredients].
“As a precautionary measure, we are halting all Soylent Bar purchases and shipments and are advising our customers to discard any remaining bars in their possession… Until we are absolutely certain our products are safe, they will not be shipped.”
'As a precautionary measure, we are halting all Soylent Bar purchases'
Some commentators have speculated about whether sucralose (a widely used and exhaustively tested sweetener), or soy protein isolate (which like all proteins can cause GI issues in some consumers), are responsible.
However, both ingredients are also used in Soylent's flagship beverage, Soylent 2.0, and many of the consumers reporting GI problems note that they are regular consumers of the beverage and in some cases have also eaten the bars without experiencing any problems.
Soylent bar ingredients list: Soy Protein Isolate, Corn Syrup, Rolled Oat, Canola Oil, Glycerine, Whole Algal Flour, Isomaltooligosaccharide, Isomaltulose, Maltodextrin, Water, Dicalcium Phosphate Anhydrous, Soy Lecithin, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Tapioca Starch, Sunflower Oil, Dipotassium Phosphate, Modified Food Starch, Potassium Chloride, Choline Bitartrate, Mixed Tocopherol, Sucralose, Mono & Diglycerides, Magnesium Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, dl-alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Tricalcium Phosphate Anhydrous, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Copper Gluconate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Potassium Iodide, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D2, Chromium Chloride, Folic Acid, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Phytonadione, Vitamin B12.