Would it be safe to assume that, if we were learning vowel pointing, these two words would have different vowels? Perhaps a tsere in the verb and a segol in the noun?
Correct, אוֹכֵל is the verb, and אוֹכֶל the noun. Although nowadays there is no difference in pronunciation between tsere and segol.
Nowadays most people don't know the correct using of Nikud, the differences between Kamatz and Patakh or between Tsere and segol. Even teachers can't tell the differences, and neither do I.
I suppose some people eat synthetic ingredients which aren't technically food.
Just checking that the verb has the stress on the last syllable, while the noun has it on the first syllable. There are a lot of little details like this where I am not sure what I am hearing!