Canada bans Soylent over meal replacement claims

Federal agency says the drinks do not meet compositional requirements for meal replacement products


Soylent, the meal replacement drink that's been called both "the future of food" in breathless headlines and "the end of food" by the New Yorker, can no longer be sold in Canada due to a failure to meet federal food regulations.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it advised Soylent earlier this month that the company's drinks do not meet the compositional requirements for meal replacement products, and that imports would have to be halted unless regulations were met.

But the agency is not recalling Soylent products as there's no health risk to consumers.

In a statement posted on Soylent's website, CEO Rob Rhinehart says the company intends to comply with CFIA regulations, even though the company "feel(s) strongly that these requirements do not reflect the current understanding of human nutritional needs."

He said he doesn't know how long it would take for Soylent to adapt to CFIA's requirements. The company did not provide a spokesperson to comment, but said in a statement that they are "working hard to resolve the categorization issue."

Soylent, which offers meal replacement drinks both in bottles and in powder form, is built around the idea that home cooking is unnecessarily time-consuming for busy people in a work-obsessed culture, and is often more expensive and less healthy than it could be.

"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," reads Soylent's website.

The product -- which is meant to eliminate the need for other food altogether by delivering a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, fat and protein -- is sold less as a drink and more as a lifestyle.

The company's branding and packaging similarly embrace efficiency over esthetics with stark labelling.

Soylent offers users a subscription service and bottles purchased on its website aren't offered in units smaller than 12. Soylent is not available in Canadian stores.

The company launched with a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2013, raising over US$700,000, and the brand grew quickly. The company has been selling in Canada since 2015.

This isn't Soylent's first run-in with food inspection agencies. Last October, parent company Rosa Foods recalled Soylent's utilitarian-sounding "food bars" along with an earlier version of their food powder after customers complained about suffering gastrointestinal illness.

"Fitting with our desire to err on the side of caution, we are reformulating Bar and Powder 1.6 to remove the likely ingredients. Turnaround should be fairly quick," Soylent posted on its website at the time. The food bar has not yet returned to Soylent's roster of products.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds