As the head of a brand that hangs its hat on efficiency, Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart can’t be happy about allocating his time and resources to combat legal litigation. Earlier this month an environmental watchdog group called As You Sow announced plans to take legal action against Soylent alleging the company has failed to warn consumers of Soylent’s lead and cadmium content. The alleged violation falls under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65.
“Nobody expects heavy metals in their meals,” said As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar in a press release. “These heavy metals accumulate in the body over time and, since Soylent is marketed as a meal replacement, users may be chronically exposed to lead and cadmium concentrations that exceed California’s safe harbor level (for reproductive harm). With stories about Silicon Valley coders sometimes eating three servings a day, this is of very high concern to the health of these tech workers.”
Soylent has since responded publicly in a blog post titled “Soylent is Compliant with California Proposition 65.” The company defended the safety of Soylent while pointing to As You Sow’s long history as a plaintiff in similar Proposition 65 lawsuits.
“Soylent does not have unusual or unsafe levels of lead, cadmium, or any metal,” the response reads. “As You Sow’s legal claim is that we do not display the required Proposition 65 notice, which is incorrect.”
It’s not the first time that the metal content of protein powders has been called into question. A 2010 issue of Consumer Reports magazine tested the arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury levels of 15 protein powders, finding elevated levels in EAS and Muscle Milk powdered protein products. At the time both companies issued statements saying Consumer Reports’ sample exceeded the their recommended daily serving size.
As You Sow’s pursuit of Soylent arrives as company gears up for the upcoming launch of Soylent 2.0, its recently announced foray into a ready-to-drink format. Soylent 2.0 has also undergone a reformulation, replacing rice with soy as the beverage’s primary protein source and with “farm-free algae sources” now accounting for over half of the beverage’s lipid calorie count. The new formula is set for release on October 15.