back to article New Zealand supermarket's recipe-generating AI takes toxic output to a new level

An AI recipe generation bot released by New Zealand discount supermarket chain Pak'nSave has raised eyebrows for recommending home cooks whip up chlorine gas cocktails, bleach rice, and combine . The "Savey Meal-bot" web app is powered by GPT-3.5. It automatically generates recipes from a list of ingredients chosen by users, …

  1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Second level nerfing

    Just tried it. You can now only pick items from a list. Once you have the list, you can use the browser's inspect element and edit html to change the data-index field and h3 content to whatever you want. Hair bleach, drain cleaner and nail polish remover give invalid ingredients. I think you can get around that with Happy salmon bleach, organic nail polish or egg flavoured drain cleaner but I do not have time now. Perhaps someone can get a long pig recipe with those tricks.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Second level nerfing

      It just made me a "Chocolate Peanut Butter Sausage Surprise", adding tinned peaches, stock, bread, milk and others... after having that stuff, I guess the only thing that might help with the aftertaste is the original "aromatic water"

      If you ever want to try it....

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Second level nerfing

        My attempt generated the following:

        These Beetroot Chocolate Chili Cupcakes are a unique and delicious treat that combine the earthiness of beetroot with the heat of chili peppers and the richness of chocolate. Get ready for a flavor explosion!

        Annoyingly, it ignored the Marmite!

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: Second level nerfing

          Ah, the Marmite finally appeared! https://saveymeal-bot.co.nz/recipe/vpApjfrLdyfy8Jbqctwwqsoj

        2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Second level nerfing

          Add a dash of petrol for a truly memorable explosion. A once in a lifetime experience

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Second level nerfing

      Water is an invalid ingredient

    3. Steve Crook

      Re: Second level nerfing

      I doubt it'll ever come up with "anthrax ripple" or "crunchy frog" as sold by the "Whizzo Chocolate Company".

      Crunchy frog being: 'An entire frog that has been coated with chocolate, using only "the finest baby frogs, dew picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose.'

      Yummy.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Second level nerfing

        No spring surprise?

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Second level nerfing

          "And Arnold, the things this boy can do with Alphabetti Spaghetti..."

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    Woah there !

    "People would actually have to follow through with the instructions – and ingest the cursed meals or beverages it recommended – for the technology to be really dangerous"

    Never underestimate Joe User's ability to follow instructions. It's on the Internet ! It has to be true ! And the site wouldn't post it if it was really harmful, right ? There is nothing harmful on the Internet, right ?

    So let's start mixing this cyano-bleach-polonium tea. It says that the taste is unique !

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Woah there !

      "But my GPS said to turn right onto the railroad tracks!"

      "But $CELEBRITY revealed in a TikTok video that Covid vaccines are a plot by Bill Gates and the NWO to implant 5G microchips!"

      We're doomed.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: Woah there !

        Well, maybe we're not doomed..only those Darwin award candidates are.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Woah there !

        But my President told me to drink bleach to cure COVID and/or take massive doses of hydroxychloroquine!!!

        1. Excused Boots

          Re: Woah there !

          And did you? Well obviously not as you are still here to post!

          Now what sort of patriot are you, wilfully ignoring the advice of your President, who, obviously knows better than anyone else, because, well, I he is the President, and naturally the US electorate certainly wouldn’t elect a complete twat into office, would you?*

          * and yes, I know Hillary Clinton actually had more votes, but because of the way your electoral system works…! To be fair, our’s (on the right side of the pond), can sometimes produce similar results, to the extent that you look back and think, ‘oh now hang on…’

          But it is what it is, as long as everyone understands the system and how it works then fine! And as long as everyone is prepared to accept the results, and play by the rules, then all is good, yes.

          Oh, no, again, hang on a minute. !!!

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Woah there !

            "And did you? Well obviously not as you are still here to post!"

            Sorry, I forgot to put the scare quote around that statement. Although in hindsight it kinda seems obvious considering the post I was replying to :-)

    2. Plest Silver badge

      Re: Woah there !

      "Never underestimate the ingenuity of a fool."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Woah there !

        NS>AI

        (natural stupidity always trumps artificial intelligence).

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Woah there !

        "Never underestimate the ingenuity of a fool."

        The trouble with making an idiot proff device is that idiots can be really, really (unintentionally) ingenious..

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Woah there !

      The Church of Bleach got a mild wrist slap for selling chlorine dioxide solution (a bleach) as a religious sacrament / cure all. They had to switch to selling sodium chlorite solution and dilute citric acid in separate bottles so customers could mix the two together and make their own Miracle Mineral Supplement. That, combined with the US first amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" ...) kept the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in business until they had to flee the country. They got support from Florida man who thought that bleach could cure COVID and are now demonstrating the level of their own intelligence by representing themselves in court.

      If they had any sense they would have told people that the route to paradise required human cannibalism then sold bread, wine and a magic spell to convert it into flesh and blood. Far too many people will believe anything.

    4. veti Silver badge

      Re: Woah there !

      When you see a credible report that someone has actually tried it, then you can get snarky about their gullibility. Until that happens, though, you're just illustrating your own prejudice.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Woah there !

        This comment brought to you from the planet that (allegedly) has "do not stop blade with hands" written on a chainsaw product warning (yes I checked Snopes; it's inconclusive)

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: Woah there !

          "Product may be hot when cooked" on just about everything

          and,

          "may contain traces of meat" on a pack of lamb chops, though I suppose that one is legitimate saying as normal people would expect it to contain more than a trace of meat.

        2. ITMA Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Woah there !

          " 'do not stop blade with hands' written on a chainsaw product warning"

          So THAT is what I've been doing wrong (via dictation mode)

        3. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Woah there !

          My dad bought an outboard motor in the USA and the first third of the manual was taken up with things you were not supposed to do. Along with the things that would impair the motor like running it out of water with no cooling, were the things that would impair you. Don’t touch spinning blades on the propeller was one gem. Another was to avoid swimming close to the rear of a boat where the motor was fitted and/or in use. It was a two stroke motor and you were advised not to drink the fuel. etc.

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Woah there !

      And the site wouldn't post it if it was really harmful, right ? There is nothing harmful on the Internet, right ?

      I forsee a big market for this bot in the US, especially if the Orange Fool promotes it. After all, he's already said that drinking bleach is fine!

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Boffin

    Hey, that's where I get my superconductor recipes from!

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Coat

      "Hey AI, give me Seoul Food recipes..."

  4. Plest Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Users huh!

    Take it from someone who's been in the boz 40 years, users are mental!

    Yet one more example of why simply ramming code into production without proper UAT will always backfire, 'cos users when they get hold of something will do thing you cannot possibly imagine in your wildest dreams. It's also another example of using tools such as AI chatbots without extreme amounts of testing is not the smartest idea.

    Cutting costs no doubt. Proper testing is not just your unit tests for code safety, etc but also being aware of the mental capacity of your targetted audience, when it comes to a public facing app you'd better be ready for some serious shocks 'cos there's some absolute nutcases out there with way too much time on their hands and often way too much curiosity for their own good!

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Users huh!

      "users when they get hold of something will do thing you cannot possibly imagine in your wildest dreams."

      I had a request for support regarding some of my software once where the user was complaining my software "didn't work" because he couldn't load his valuable "data" into it any more. I got hold of a copy of his data file. It was supposed to hold binary data (full ASCII range 0-255 characters) but his data file had been stripped of all characters outside the alphanumeric range and those that remained had been blocked into lines 80 characters long terminated with carriage return line feeds. In short his file was totally trashed. I queried if he'd opened the binary data file using a text editor... and then re-saved it using said editor over the original. He just grumbled that he didn't know he couldn't do that. Didn't have a backup copy either. He'd lost many months of work. Can honestly say I never saw that one coming.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Users huh!

        As the old saying goes: a skilful developer can build a system that's fool-proof; a highly skilled one can build a system that's idiot-proof; but nobody ever built a system that's cretin-proof.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Users huh!

          It's impossible to build something idiot-proof. As soon as you do the universe invents a better idiot.

          As to fool-proof -> Make something so that it's fool proof and only a fool will use it.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Users huh!

      "So many morons! So little space!"

  5. b0llchit Silver badge
    Happy

    Award ceremonies

    There are many potential and a significant amount of real Darwin Awards in the waiting here!

    Let the cooking contests begin.

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Marmite

    Why, only this week BigClive demonstrated how to make a refreshing carbonated Marmite drink!

    (Which reminds me, only got three jars left in the cellar. Must make a trip to the UK sometime!)

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Marmite

      You can get it from New World, under the name of "My Mate".

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Marmite

      refreshing carbonated Marmite drink

      Had a evening out with a very nice Aussie couple. She was complaining that the UK Vegemite is very different from the Aussie version (and dissed Marmite).

      My wife declined to even sniff the Vegemite - she loathes Marmite and anything associated with it so I have to sneak Twiglets [1] into the bi-weekly shopping delivery.. She would allow Marmite in the house, but not anywhere where she can see it and have flashbacks to the taste.

      [1] Not that they really taste of Marmite any more - they used to be much, much more Marmite-y. Usual "new" recipe shenanigans, designed to save money rather than improve the product.

      1. Bebu Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Marmite

        《UK Vegemite is very different from the Aussie version (and dissed Marmite).》

        That is curious not I would anything past the manufacturer(s.)

        I always imagined they had giant vats full of yeast and any old crap left over from their other equally suspect product lines which they let ferment until the colour and consistency was that of coal tar.

        This black yeast poo would be shoved into jars and labelled vege-,mar-,bog-,etc mite depending on the market.

        In AU its Vegemite but I remember it was Marmite in NZ but never noticed the difference after migrating as a kid.

        I do remember dry Weetbix+real butter+Marmite as a NZ kid in the '60s long before AI - must be something malevolent in their water.

        Vegemite and Vodka could make a great cocktail - the vegemite diluted to homeopathic proportions with vodka :)

        1. Adair

          Re: Marmite

          'Vegemite but I remember it was Marmite in NZ' - as a bonafide Kiwi, dating back to the early '60s, I promise you that your memory chips are faulty.

          In NZ Vegemite is Vegemite (and long may it reign). The vile filth called 'Marmite' is imported from some godforsaken hellhole on the far side of the planet where they are so poor they think eating road tar is something to celebrate.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Marmite

            Not sure if I've misunderstood the joke or to which version of Marmite you're referring.

            My understanding is that the "Marmite" made and sold in NZ is a somewhat different recipe to the version sold in the UK, with the brand under different ownership in each market.

            1. veti Silver badge

              Re: Marmite

              You are correct. The Marmite sold in NZ is made in NZ, to a different recipe. It's a bit like British Marmite with a generous spoonful of sugar added to each jar. Which is disgusting.

              Vegemite is only made in Australia, as far as I know. It's imported to NZ, presumably because there's a fair number of Aussie expats here. It's a milder taste, but not bad.

              Real UK Marmite is available in some shops, but can't be sold under that name here because trademark. The stuff I buy is labelled "My Mate".

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Marmite

          "《UK Vegemite is very different from the Aussie version (and dissed Marmite).》

          That is curious not I would anything past the manufacturer(s.)"

          Not really. Recipes are often tweaked to suit the local palate. I first really noticed it many, many years ago when I did a shop in Netto, who were famous for selling off failed export orders, end of line products etc. They had some Heinz Tomato Ketchup all labelled up in German, with nothing to indicate it might be a special version or anything, but was noticeably more spicy than the usual version made for the UK market. I went back and bought another half dozen bottles knowing it was a case of when it's gone, it's gone :-)

          On the other hand, changing the local recipe is almost always due to costs, either to use cheaper ingredients, or because they off-shore the manufacture and the ingredient prices are different there or the process is a little different.

      2. Inari

        Re: Marmite

        <delurks>

        You'll be wanting Marmite XO. Matured four times longer than the regular stuff and closer to the original recipe.

        <relurks>

  7. Alumoi Silver badge

    Skynet?

    Is that you?

  8. sabroni Silver badge
    Meh

    More interesting as a study in the way media works

    It's an app that takes your left over FOOD items and combines them into "recipes". If bleach is a food item to you then the app is behaving correctly.

    What's much more interesting is the way "Users put household cleaning items into list of foods" has become "Evil AI tricks consumers into eating bleach".

    El Reg spinning this the same as mainstream media is a little disappointing.

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: More interesting as a study in the way media works

      OR

      you can read it as yet another story where a system has been let loose on the world with (initially) no care taken at all. And for absolutely no useful purpose (well, another stupid advertising gimmick, but considering all the brand recognition they are getting is mockery...)

      There is a subtext here: it was simple enough for an idiot in the marketing department to put this together so it is not unlikely that we'll see other shops following suit. Now, you can mock the commentards (and TFA) for thinking Joe Public will actually eat bleach. But what if the next shop is B&Q? There is all sorts of damage you can do with the contents of their shelves (and there are TV shows about DIY disasters already).

      As for

      > El Reg spinning this the same as mainstream media

      Perhaps, just perhaps, unlike the mainstream media, El Reg expects a bit of savvy on this subject from its readers and the article is being, ooooh, what was that word, on the tip of my tongue...

      Sarcastic. That was it.

  9. entfe001

    Darn they nerfed it

    Now we can't ask mixing rum, acetone, sulphuric acid, battery acid, red dye n.2, scumm and/or pepperoni to get the true and real recipe for grog!

    Should we ask that argentinian TV channel instead...?

    1. RAMChYLD

      Re: Darn they nerfed it

      You and me both. I wanted to ask the AI how to make wasabi tea properly. TV makes it sound like if you drink this you prove to the world you are different!

      (yes, local Malaysian TV station 8TV actually floated the idea of wasabi tea. Problem is I couldn't replicate it using just a Lipton teabag and some cheap wasabi I got with my sushi from a supermarket).

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Darn they nerfed it

        wasabi tea. Problem is I couldn't replicate it using just a Lipton teabag

        Ah. There's your error - it should be brewed properly in a nice china teapot (with tea-cosy obviously) from proper tea-leaves and the wasabi added after 3 minutes and 20 seconds. At the 10 minutes full brewing time, pour into a cup with no milk (milk will dilute the wasabi akin to how dairy fat dulls down a curry burn).

        All done while meditating in a full-lotus position (preferrably while performing Yogic Flying) to the music of Gong or Egg.

    2. Bebu Silver badge

      Grappa?

      《mixing rum, acetone, sulphuric acid, battery acid, red dye n.2, scumm and/or pepperoni》

      Grappa or Scrumpy?

      acetone + conc. suphuric acid alone has all sorts of "tasty" products.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Grappa?

        Grappa

        (Shudder).

        Got very, very drunk on a mix of Grappa and Blue Bols when I was a student (gives a *very* interesting shade of vomit - don't judge us, it was all we had in our rooms[1]). I can't smell grappa now without having the urge to vomit again.

        [1] And we were too tight/broke/drunk to go out to get anything else. There was, fortunately, enough loos in the block for us to all vomit.

        1. Graham Lockley

          Re: Grappa?

          How unfortunate you are, I love Grappa :)

    3. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      @entfe001 -- Re: Darn they nerfed it

      Damn! - - - - - ->

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Shock! Horror! How [un]expected!

    Folks apparently keep getting surprised by the garbage these LLMs spew out, but that's almost certainly just due to having fallen for the hype. A mindless machine that assembles word sequences according to statistical prevalence in its training data but doesn't have any clue what any of said words actually means has a very high probability of spouting nonsense. Not surprise there.

    The fact that humans have to keep intervening to clamp down on said nonsense being emitted shows the extent to which we've been kidded. These machines might possibly have 'intelligence' according to some very liberal, optimistic or mercenary definition, "but not as we know it Jim".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sounds bizarrely similar to something I wrote in BASIC as a kid...

      This sounds crude and lacking even the superficial "intelligence" of your average LLM-based nonsense.

      In fact, it sounds *exactly* like a program I wrote in Atari BASIC circa the late 1980s which randomly generated "recipes"- which were inevitably horrible- and which would do *exactly* the same thing if you gave it a list of inedible nonsense.

      Which I did, because that sort of thing was funny when you were twelve years old or so.

  11. Howard Sway Silver badge

    instead allowing only a list of "popular items"

    So here we are : the amazing AI program has been found to suffer from Garbage In, Garbage Out just like any other computer program in history. And their first attempt to solve the problem is the good old client side prepopulated list of values. But as an earlier commenter pointed out, you can get round this by still making your own call to the API. So, next they will have to discover server side input validation. Ending up with a system that only produces a limited range of outputs for a specific set of inputs. Because there is no intelligence whatsoever in the "AI", otherwise it would know what it is doing, and in what context, and work out that the inputs were harmful itself. Instead, it looks a lot more like what it really is - just an ordinary computer application.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: instead allowing only a list of "popular items"

      "Because there is no intelligence whatsoever in the "AI", otherwise it would know what it is doing, and in what context, and work out that the inputs were harmful itself."

      Exactly. There are huge databases out on the internet with recipes for all sorts of things that are safe to eat, barring allergies and/or other medical conditions. It wouldn't be beyond the wit of the programmer to direct the "AI" to those sites for training and/or simply listing available recipes that use all or some of the ingredients that you give it. Or better yet, just crawl the 'net for recipe websites and grab, ask for or purchase everything you can find and build your own database that doesn't even need the "AI" component. It's little more than a fairly simple database lookup. I dabbled with something similar on a much smaller scale with a recipe book and database on an Amiga intending to push it out to PD libraries. Then I found there were a couple out there already so didn't bother getting much past the proof of concept stage.

  12. IGotOut Silver badge

    It should have a threshold....

    A drop down list of food for ingredients.

    Student.

    Contains Rice, Pot Noodles and Tomato ketchup.

    Hipster

    Quinoa, Oat "milk", Avocado and some beer that tastes like piss

    Single bloke.

    Microwave meal, left over microwave meal, pizza, left over pizza.

    Drunk person.

    Anything goes, so long as it's not to far past it's use by date.

  13. Daniel Snowden
    Joke

    ammonia, bleach and water

    Sounds like school dinners

  14. xyz Silver badge

    Err....

    I've made worse.

    The banana and tomato smoothie example I did last week although I did add slightly past it spinach, some green things my gf bought a couple of months ago that I found at the bottom of the fridge and the least mouldy rasberries that werent welded to the bottom of their punnet that I'd forgotten about.

    The result was brown and I drank the lot.

    Burp.

  15. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Darwin!

    > generates recipes from a list of ingredients chosen by users

    If people are dumb enough to suggest known toxins in their "ingredients", is it wrong of the AI to do humanity as a whole, a favour?

    1. Updraft102

      Re: Darwin!

      No one said the person is necessarily preparing the food for him/herself, though!

  16. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    It asks for food items, so it's logical (but not necessarily reasonable) to assume that it's given food items to work with. Can't blame the software for doing what it's supposed to do. Can't see many people thinking that bleach was a food item either (trump fans being a possible exception).

    What we have here isn't a failure of the software, or a failure of the developers to protect the population. It's a failure of the developers to consider that people can, and will, fuck about with new toys just to see if they can break them, and then make a song and dance about it for the sake of publicity.

    All manner of folks have an interest in that - publicity seeking citizens, corporate competitors looking to embarrass the publisher, the anti AI brigade, journalists who have found a new tub to thump..

    The developers need a good stern talking to, not because some retard might drink a bleach cocktail, but because they left themselves open to the risk that someone would claim a retard might do so.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      >It's a failure of the developers to consider that people can, and will, fuck about with new toys just to see if they can break them, and then make a song and dance about it for the sake of publicity.

      Such people used to find gainful employment in the Quality Assurance (Test) department.

      In this case its not a software problem but a data problem. There's lots of things out there that might be considered food by one culture and regarded as poison by another. Just picking the obvious stuff like cleaning materials is rather juvenile.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "It asks for food items, so it's logical (but not necessarily reasonable) to assume that it's given food items to work with. Can't blame the software for doing what it's supposed to do. Can't see many people thinking that bleach was a food item either (trump fans being a possible exception)."

      No. because if it's an "AI" trained in cooking, recipes and ingredients, it should be responding based on that training, not taking ingredients it's never heard of in relation to it's training and just mixing them in some random way and telling you the result is "delicious" or "refreshing" because that is an outright lie. If had any AI at all in it, it would "know" what combinations work and what don't and not vary too far from those limits.

  17. Blofeld's Cat
    Pint

    Hmm ...

    A few years ago a newspaper* in the UK ran a competition to find the most revolting drink that could be made from ingredients found behind the bar of a typical pub.

    I can't remember the exact recipe of the winner, but it used the liquid from the jar of pickled eggs ...

    * OK it was a long time ago.

  18. Excused Boots

    It does strike me that there is one good way to resolve this.

    Should any human come to harm by strictly following the instructions of an AI, then, unless there are seriously mitigating circumstances, the CEO of the company concerned plus their immediate family, are dragged out and publicly executed!

    I suspect that the code review suddenly becomes more of a priority and is allocated more resources

  19. mrRabbit

    mandatory xkcd

    https://xkcd.com/720/

    Written back in 2010!

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