Articles on health and science matters that affect our daily lives

Soylent May Get The Green Light

According To The CFIA, Soylent May Get The Green Light Again

The future of food may be more environmentally friendly, but did one company go too far in claiming a stake?

US based Soylent, who sells a meal replacement drink that’s been called both “the future of food” in breathless headlines, has not been sold in Canada since 2017 due to a failure to meet federal food regulations.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it advised Soylent that the company’s drinks did not meet the compositional requirements for meal replacement products, and that its imports would be halted unless regulations were met.

CEO Rob Rhinehart said the company intended to comply with CFIA regulations, even though the company feels “strongly that these requirements do not reflect the current understanding of human nutritional needs.”

The Soylent revolution did make it to Canada

He went on to say that he didn’t know how long it would take for Soylent to adapt to CFIA’s requirements, and that the company couldn’t estimate when its products would eventually be available again to Canadians. The company said in a statement that it was “working hard to resolve the categorization issue.”

Soylent, which offers meal replacement drinks both in bottles and in powder form, started in 2013 when Mr. Rhinehart was working in Silicon Valley.

The product was built around the idea that home cooking was time-consuming for busy people in a work-obsessed culture.

“It turns a full meal into a one-step process. It makes things a lot less complicated. And when you’re busy, it takes eating off your plate,” was posted on Soylent’s website.

Designed to deliver a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, fat and protein, the product is sold less as a drink and more as a lifestyle. The company’s branding and packaging similarly embrace efficiency over aesthetics with minimalist labelling.

Not affiliated, but the leverage from Soylent Green is unmistakeable

Soylent launched with a crowdfunding campaign raising over $700,000 US in 2013, and the brand grew quickly. The company then started selling in Canada in 2015.

Apparently, this wasn’t Soylent’s first run-in with food inspection agencies. In October of 2016, parent company Rosa Foods recalled Soylent’s “food bars” along with an earlier version of its food powder after customers complained about suffering stomach issues.

There’s no doubting that producing a safe, publicly accepted food product that passes regulatory muster has challenges. Soylent is a perfect example of a product with promise, but do they have the tenacity to fight the good fight?

Soylent’s website specified that the company wasn’t named after the food-replacement wafers that infamously turned out to be made of human flesh in the 1973 movie Soylent Green based on Richard Fleischer’s book.

Meanwhile, Back in Canada…

A Toronto-based landscape architect, Steve Euser, said he’d been a regular Soylent drinker since the product was made available in Canada. “I was working very, very long hours, and eating healthy — actually, just eating — was a problem,” Euser says.

With an ailing father and no time to take care of their design business, Euser found Soylent to be a convenient meal supplement to get him through long days.

Ever since Soylent was removed from the Canadian market back in 2017 one question has been on supporters mind north of the border – when the heck is it coming back, eh?

In a statement recently issued by the company in October of 2019, “It’s finally happening, we are coming back.” Their goal being to have product back on the shelves by the first quarter of 2020.

How Do You Benefit from Food That’s About to Go Bad?

Next time you toss rotten lettuce or moldy berries think about this: globally, we waste more than a third of the food we produce.

There is a Solution…

A group of Swedish graduate students are working to fight the problem of food waste. Working in the Food Innovation and Product Design program at Lund University, they’ve come up with a way to use produce that is about to go to waste. The goal being to help people who have limited access to food.

They’re calling it FoPo Food Powder.

It’s exactly what it sounds like – dried, powdered, shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. FoPo powder can be dropped into relief efforts after natural disasters, or it can be given out in low-resource areas where refrigeration and fresh food are hard to come by.

“When we found out that one third of the food produced was going to waste while people in the world were starving, we could not back out,” says Kent Ngo, one of the students who helped develop it.

Ngo says they are not making something ground-breaking. Powdered food has been around since the early days of the space programs. But they are rethinking the waste and delivery channels.

Their development team reached out to willing farmers and retailers to source fruit while food scientists experimented with different drying and powdering methods.

Settling on spray-drying it, the process then included grinding it up. Then the students looked at ways to distribute it through commercial and government supported sites.

One member of the group, Gerald Perry Marin grew up in the Philippines. He’d seen how natural disasters such as recurring typhoons cut people off from their food supply. And how important it was to have options for food that were easy to access in a relief situation.

Ngo says, “Today a relief bag for humanitarian disasters contains various foods such as strawberry jam, peanut butter and peas in tomato sauce. We think that an easily transported pack of cheap dried food powder with high nutritional value would fit in perfectly.”

The Lund University team has been trying to keep its prices down to aid low-budget humanitarian groups and non-governmental groups.

FoPo Powder


Pros and Cons

Freeze-dried food retains most of the nutritional benefits of raw food. It loses some vitamin and mineral density in the drying process. But it is still a good way to get fibre and nutrients.

As makers of FoPo, they are currently running a pilot program in Manila. For their first run, they are drying calamansi – a citrus fruit. Since there’s is a surplus of it, it’s easy for their Philippine manufacturing program to dry and powder.

Program Support

The group has reportedly gotten support from senators in the Philippines. And they’re about to start working with the U.N.’s Initiative on Food Loss and Waste.

To broaden their reach, they’re also working with commercial suppliers and companies that want to use FoPo in their food products.

With continuing enthusiasm, the company has almost 40 international supermarkets on board. Some examples of FoPo Powder’s use might be cake mixes and ice cream. Consumers can also sprinkle it into food or drinks, or use it in baking.

“I was a bit surprised that the calamansi powder tasted so good,” Ngo says. “I cannot wait for the mango and pineapple powder.”