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A corporate watchdog says Soylent contains unsafe levels of lead and cadmium

Twitter employee Amber Costa works on a computer at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco
Reuters/Robert Galbraith
Watch out, Silicon Valley.
By Sasha Zients
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Bad news for time-crunched techies seeking to avoid the “friction” of preparing meals for themselves: Soylent Super Food is facing a lawsuit.

As You Sow, a nonprofit that promotes corporate, environmental, and social responsibility, filed a notice of legal action against the makers of Silicon Valley’s favorite meal replacement drink on Aug. 13. The notice alleges that the company has violated California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as proposition 65, failing to sufficiently warn consumers of the lead and cadmium levels in the new Soylent 1.5 drink.

As You Sow says its testing found that just one serving of the new drink exposes the consumer to a concentration of lead that is 12 to 25 times California’s “safe harbor” level for reproductive health, and up to four times the concentration of cadmium. Even at low levels, chronic exposure to lead is associated with neurological impairment, and exposure to cadmium is linked to kidney, liver, and bone damage.

With reports of Silicon Valley coders consuming up to three servings of Soylent per day, “this is of very high concern to the health of these tech workers,” said the CEO of As You Sow, Andrew Behar.

Soylent, which recently announced the release of Soylent 1.5, has responded with a statement on its blog, saying that the product is, in fact, compliant with California’s law because the products are properly labeled. ”We are not required to change the product, but we are required to display the Proposition 65 text where we sell our products, which we do,” the company wrote in the statement.

Though the company concedes that the levels of heavy metals are higher than the proposition 65 levels specified in As You Sow’s press release, it states that those levels are “stringent” compared with those of the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, and Environmental Protection Agency.

The company highlights tests results conducted by a contract research organization Covance, which found that levels of heavy metals in Soylent’s products are “entirely safe and sustainable.”

On its website, the company lists the drink’s key ingredients as “soy protein,”  ”algal oil,” “isomaltulose,” and “vitamins and minerals” and highlights Soylent’s transparent labeling practices—noting that “each ingredient plays a specific role in whole-body nutrition.”

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