For decades, kids have been digging through their cereal boxes, dredging up little prizes. But some unlucky cereal eaters have found much worse than a toy dinosaur floating in their breakfast bowls. In 2017, BuzzFeed News reported a long list of stomach-churning discoveries: A woman unearthed a thumbtack in her Cheerios, and a man bit down on a bone from his box of Frosted Mini-Wheats. And this week, Jensen Karp, a former rapper and a current writer and podcast host in Los Angeles, joined the corrupted cereal club when he found what he says are shrimp tails, rat droppings, and floss in his Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
A Twitter feud between Karp and the cereal brand has ensued. CTC is trying to wipe its hands clean of the matter, while Karp is continuing to go viral with his disgust as he investigates his findings. Slate talked with Karp as he was on his way to get the possible “rat poo” squares tested.
Slate: Can you walk me through your Monday morning?
Jensen Karp: So we purchased the Cinnamon Toast Crunch on Saturday at the Costco in Woodland Hills, California. And I’ve been a huge fan of Cinnamon Toast Crunch ever since I was a kid. It’s literally the only cereal I eat, even at 41. I have no shame in it. I poured myself a bowl and ate that bowl. I have a 21-month-old, and normally I’ll eat a second bowl and give him some. He thinks they are like cookies.
I was getting my second bowl ready when something plopped out of it. I was like, What is that? At first, I thought it was a grouping of two cereal pieces together. But then I looked closer, and I was like, This is a shrimp tail! There was nothing else it could be. There was no other option.
And then I looked in the bag and another shrimp tail was chilling at the top of it. And they are sugar-coated and look processed.
What was your reaction to seeing this?
I wanted to walk into traffic. I pushed it away and was like yuck. And I immediately sent a picture of it to my wife. I went through the complaint form process on the General Mills site, and I also tweeted the picture online.
Now you’ve gone viral. And you’re fighting with Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
I love Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I don’t want them to look stupid. I want to forever be cool with them. But the only reason this is viral is because they were so insane with their response.
I would have dropped this immediately if CTC was like, “Hey, we’re gonna investigate and call the Costco and do all the things we need to do to protect people with shellfish allergies or people who buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch because it’s kosher. We’ll take care of this.” Instead, I got the exact opposite. They were really nice on private message, but publicly they posted this really weird response where they said, Hey, we investigated it. It’s not a shrimp tail. It’s an accumulation of sugar. And, like, there’s literally no world where people think it’s not a shrimp tail. It’s a shrimp tail.
And then at that point, it just made me mad. And my friend called me and was like, “Dude, you’ve got to go through the rest of the bag.” I had never even thought to do that. In the bag, found a piece of string, what looks like a pistachio nut that also went through the sugar-coating process, and some of the squares have raised black spots on them. Also, some of the squares have like a red dye on them. And when my wife came home, she said that we have to look at the other bag. And the other bag has a piece of dental floss in it and the bag looks like it was taped up.
I don’t even have anything to promote. I mean, I have a podcast where I’d never talk about this or joke about it. This isn’t something I necessarily want to be remembered for. This is not what I wanted to spend my day doing. I don’t want to go to poison control.
Also, the items are actually cooked on to the Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares. They’ve all been sugar-coated. I don’t know how I would do that as a prank. And also, pranks should be funny, which this isn’t.
So why not taste the shrimp tails for public confirmation?
No. No one is ever going to try the shrimp tails. I have a very queasy stomach, and I’m medicated for OCD. I do not want to play that game. [Karp has since tweeted that he’s sent the tails to a company that has offered to DNA-test them for free.]
What have you eaten since the incident?
I have not eaten since. I’m going to do a juice cleanse today purely because I don’t want to even think about eating. I feel very sick. Not physically. But I feel very sick mentally.
Will you ever eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch again?
No, I’ll never eat it again. Which is such a bummer because it’s truly the only cereal I eat. This just sucks.