On March 22 2021, Twitter user Jensen Karp (@JensenKarp) alerted the official Twitter presence of Cinnamon Toast Crunch that he had found what appeared to be “shrimp tails” in his box of cereal:
Karp tagged @CTCSquares to ask why it appeared “shrimp tails” were mixed in with (and coated in) the cinnamon sugar squares — adding “This is not a bit” to emphasize he was not joking about the purported discovery. Karp then “looped in” parent company General Mills:
Within the hour @CTCSquares replied and offered Karp a replacement box; Karp was “not sure” whether or not he was “ready for another box”:
We’re sorry to see what you found! We would like to report this to our quality team and replace the box. Can you please send us a DM to collect more details? Thanks!
We understand your concern. We promise you that our team will look into this and get to the bottom of it – but in the meantime, we want to do everything we can to make this right. We’ll need further details to research.
In their response, Cinnamon Toast Crunch also asked Karp to DM the brand, and his response contained what was at least partly “a bit”:
Each day on Twitter, thousands of users tag brands and companies, and in response are asked to move the conversation to direct message. Most Twitter complaints end there, with the company and user discussing the matter further away from their respective timelines (and public scrutiny.)
Whether it was because Karp’s tweet was already gaining traction or for some other reason, Cinnamon Toast Crunch publicly asserted that a careful review of the image proved to their satisfaction that the “shrimp tails” Karp discovered were in fact an apparent “accumulation of the cinnamon sugar that sometimes can occur when ingredients aren’t thoroughly blended,” adding that “there’s no possibility of cross contamination with shrimp”:
Karp, still in possession of the alleged shrimp tails, rebutted the claim, citing “further investigation with my eyes”:
Karp objected to the company’s attempt to “gaslight” him about the find, which he described as “cinnamon coated SHRIMP TAILS.” Karp continued, evidently frustrated by how the company dismissed his experience and skeptical that anyone could confuse shrimp tails for clumps of cinnamon sugar:
Apparently in a direct message, General Mills asked Karp to send them the “accumulations of sugar.” He expressed reluctance to do so, citing the company’s claim to the contrary, later referring to the objects as his “shrimp tails”:
In Karp’s next tweet, he said the entire exchange prompted him to inspect the remaining cereal in the bag for other “shrimp tails” or foreign objects. From there, things got more bizarre; Karp said he had already eaten some of the cereal before finding foreign objects, and he photographed red and black marks on some of the squares:
In subsequent tweets, Karp reiterated that the images were not a joke:
In the next three tweets, Karp said:
“Ok. Going on TMZ Live tomorrow.
“For real, what are the black things though?
“Also, reminder – they told me this was all just ‘accumulations of sugar.'”
One user proposed an explanation that did not quell his apparently escalating anxiety:
That night, Karp returned with further updates — adding that his wife found what looked like “dental floss” in a “taped up” bag purchased from Costco:
Ultimately, Karp disclosed what he believed was the likeliest explanation for what could only be described as a cereal box of horrors:
Karp also disputed the inevitable discussion about whether he had falsified the finds in order to go viral, pointing out that the black and red marks were “COOKED ONTO” the cereal. He added that the entire conversation was only “viral” because of the “insane response” from General Mills.
The story was still being updated on the afternoon of March 23 2021; Karp shared a tweet about another incident (this from 2009) involving a General Mills product and “shrimp pieces,” and tweeted about taking the box of cereal to a lab:
In his second most-recent tweet at press time, Karp shared screenshots of further messages with the verified Cinnamon Toast Crunch account and pledged “full transparency for those concerned about their products.” In those screenshots, the brand requested Karp stay home for a three-hour pickup window, and Karp expressed reluctance to release the objects to the company:
Karp’s “Cinnamon Toast shrimp tails” updates appeared to be ongoing, and he seemed to be at a standstill with General Mills over their initial insistence the objects were not in fact shrimp tails. Karp seemed to suggest he was getting the objects independently tested, and no independent information about the viral discovery had yet been made available. We will update this page if more information comes to light.