Transparency is great, if nobody looks

Has anyone actually looked at the spreadsheet at

Trace amounts of heavy metals are present in nearly all types of food. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration published a five-year study of heavy metals in grocery store items. To demonstrate the prevalence of daily heavy metal intake, we have included the following graphic based on that study:

Meal data can be found in this spreadsheet.

Transparency is a cornerstone of our business, and we endeavor to provide you with the most up-to-date information regarding our product and our business.

Well, that settles that: as you can see from the infographic, all foods contain these heavy metals. In fact, foods contain absolute shitloads of heavy metals; Soylent is surprisingly light on–wait, what?

Rosa Labs also published an infographic and spreadsheet based on an FDA study of heavy metal content in common foods, comparing two proposed meals to similar servings of Soylent. Both reference foods include high levels of cadmium and arsenic, along with levels of lead similar to those of Soylent; although one food includes tuna and the other includes salmon, providing over 97% of the arsenic in each proposed meal, with spinach providing a significant amount of cadmium in the salmon-based meal.

It turns out there’s approximately no heavy metals in any of the foods used. Fish and spinach concentrate heavy metals, and allow quick-and-dirty engineering of favorable infographics and statistics to show what you want to show.

You see, transparency is great. Once people trust you, they stop questioning you. Once they stop questioning you, you can post all the data for everyone to see at your office, and nobody will bother to come and look too hard.

I’m not saying the heavy metal content of Soylent is dangerous–it’s not. I’m just saying this brand of marketing is horse shit.

I think the point is that people regularly eat tuna, salmon, and spinach.

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It’s a leading statement.

Problem: Reader is now worried that heavy metal content in Soylent may be above a safe intake.

How do we persuade the reader not to worry about that? We build a stream of propositions to modify his thinking.

Proposition: “Trace amounts of heavy metals are present in nearly all types of foods.”

Goal: To suggest to the reader that these metals are in pretty much everything, thus their presence in Soylent is normal.

Proposition: “The Food and Drug Administration published a five-year study of heavy metals in grocery store items.”

Goal: To appeal to a trusted authority and gain reader trust.

Proposition: Provide an infographic showing meals with multiple ingredients, comparing these against Soylent.

Goal: To demonstrate that many foods contain higher heavy metal contents than Soylent. The use of many foods allows confounding the information, allowing the selection of one high-heavy-metal food to cover for many low-heavy-metal foods. The reader will likely associate them all with an even division of heavy metal content.

Proposition: “Transparency is a cornerstone of our business”

Goal: To lead the reader to see the prior propositions as a disclosure.

How many readers do you think actually opened the spreadsheet, read it, and analyzed the implications?

People don’t eat tuna, salmon, and spinach every day, much less for every meal. My initial impulse was to defend Rosa Labs and Soylent because the lawsuit is silly and the organization making the suit is a sham; and I tend to suppress emotional impulses in favor of cold analysis. Analysis suggests that the amount of heavy metal intake Rosa Labs suggests people consume regularly is greatly overstated, largely as a distraction tactic.

This is not behavior we want to encourage. The heavy metal content in Soylent is harmless; yet now any activist can point out Rosa Labs’s attempted deception and draw a narrative about contempt for readers who won’t bother fact-checking the numbers or methodology. Things about lying with statistics will come into the mix. The ability of Rosa Labs to defend its position simply by being Rosa Labs and having a good reputation as an honest business has been diminished by an attempt to pull a fast one here.

Dissembling isn’t about lying; it’s about saying things in a way as to lead people to draw the conclusions you want them to reach.

It’s not hard to imagine someone eating tuna once every two months, which would be a similar amount of arsenic as drinking Soylent 1.6 for every single meal for two months. That seems more than fair to me. I don’t feel misled or deceived.

I’m fine with it.

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Oh damn - I eat 100-200 grams of fresh leaf spinach every day for salads, I’m fu**ed.


Holy crap, I’m full of heavy metals: I chop up a fresh tomato, on average 120 gram Roma, about 120 grams of Cucumber, 150 grams of green bell pepper, 100 grams of onions - and put it all in my spinach salad - imma die dude! (Every Day, literally)

I better swap out the fresh veges for Soylent !:yum:


Yes, definitely a good point about the comparisons being disingenuous. Also, spot on that the community isn’t looking into the formula with enough scrutiny and skepticism even though it’s published online.

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You are literally dead right now. Someone notify Rick Grimes!

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