AI recipe generator will leave you gassy

Can I take the turps on the side?
16 August 2023

Robot chef! Source: Shutterstock

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

What’s for dinner? An AI recipe generator intended to help shoppers create meal plans, created by New Zealand supermarket chain Pak ‘n’ Save, caught customers’ attention when it suggested an Oreo vegetable stir fry.

The supermarket experiment with generative AI – which, by the way, is everywhere nowadays – used ChatGPT-3.5 to power the Savey Meal-bot that generated meal plans from customers’ leftovers.

After providing three or more ingredients, the bot would come up with a recipe. The concept isn’t unique: there are listicles aplenty toting the top ten AI recipe generators out there.

In a bid to be human, this AI recipe generator is unnaturally verbose.

After Savey Meal-bot’s odd concoction was shared on social media, customers began experimenting with the app. When a range of household items was added to the app, it really got cooking.

A recipe called “aromatic water mix” would create what the app describes as “the perfect nonalcoholic beverage to quench your thirst and refresh your senses.” It would also create chlorine gas, which the app suggested you should “serve chilled and enjoy the refreshing fragrance.”

Via Liam Hehir’s Tweet.

New Zealand political commentator Liam Hehir posted the “recipe,” which has no disclaimer re: the dangers of chlorine gas, to Twitter prompting others to experiment and share their results.

Ah, a hearty lunch. We especially love the wisecracks.

A spokesperson for the supermarket said they were disappointed to see “a small minority have tried to use the tool inappropriately and not for its intended purpose”. The spokesperson for the supermarket, clearly, has never previously released software to end users. To paraphrase an old saying, “if you give an inch, they’ll take pleasure in using the inch in ways never expected or coded for.”

In a statement, they said that the supermarket would “keep fine tuning our controls” of the bot to ensure it was safe and useful, and noted that the bot has terms and conditions stating that users should be over 18. Pak ‘n’ Save lives in a world where there are no stupid (or playful) adults.

“You must use your own judgement before relying on or making any recipe produced by Savey Meal-bot,” it said, and a new warning notice now appends the meal planner that the recipes aren’t reviewed by a human being.

Now, obviously someone who got given a recipe for “methanol bliss” – picture turpentine-flavored French toast – will have provided a set of ingredients that aren’t all food items and wouldn’t follow through on the recipe.

However, the wonder-machines that everyone is so keen to invest in and experiment with shouldn’t be taken at such face-value. The consumer-facing iteration of ChatGPT encourages users not to combine water, bleach and ammonia. Unless you use the “Grandma Exploit.”

There will always be hiccups with new technology (and probably with ant-poison and glue sandwiches, too), but the Savey Meal-bot points to a wider issue with the uptake of AI.

In the rush to adopt the new technology, proper testing isn’t carried out. Plus, generative AI is trained on such a vast amount of data that no human could read or oversee it in their lifetime. This, along with the fact that its answers are randomly generated, means it’s near impossible for programmers to anticipate problems.

This bot suggests you shouldn’t use *every* ingredient you have…

If everyone wasn’t so ready to embrace AI as an all-knowing overlord, and people weren’t so quick to accept robot orders (see: the number of drivers who followed GPS into large bodies of water) then perhaps the Savey Meal-bot would be a fun story.

Luckily, no one has been hurt. With AI being deployed in as many fields as possible though, it’s good to be reminded that it has flaws – that could be deadly. Even if only to idiots. We at Tech HQ look forward to a new category of Darwin Awards winners.