For Jensen Karp, Monday started out like any other day. The comedian and writer from Los Angeles woke up, went downstairs, and poured himself a nice big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. One bowl, it turns out, wasn’t enough to satisfy Karp, who reached for the box to pour himself a second bowl.
He very quickly wished he didn’t.
"Something plopped out of the box," he told The New York Times. "I picked it up, and I was like, 'This is clearly a shrimp tail.'"
Much like the toasted squares they were hidden amongst, the apparent shrimp tails were coated in a layer of sugary cinnamon, leaving Karp feeling horrified.
“I get really grossed out, and I’m medicated for OCD, so this is a total nightmare for me,” he said.
He sent a complaint to General Mills, the company that has owned the Cinnamon Toast Crunch brand since 1984, which quickly offered to send Karp a replacement box. Given what he had just found, he politely declined.
Things took a turn, however, after Karp tweeted a picture of said shrimp tails, prompting the Cinnamon Toast Crunch account to send a tweet of its own.
“After further investigation with our team that closely examined the image, it appears to be an accumulation of the cinnamon sugar that sometimes can occur when ingredients aren’t thoroughly blended,” the statement read. “We assure you that there’s no possibility of cross-contamination with shrimp.”
Frustrated, Karp responded with another, closer, image. “Ok, well after further investigation with my eyes, these are cinnamon coated SHRIMP TAILS, you weirdos. I wasn’t all that mad until you now tried to gaslight me?”
That’s when things started to go viral.
Karp went back to the box, on the suggestion of his followers, to see if there were more to be found. What he found, however, was far more sinister. Sharing an image of a handful of the cereal, he said: "Many of the squares have black marks, and some are dyed red? And yes, I ate a bowl before noticing all this.
“For real – someone tell me they aren’t like maggots or bugs. Is it shrimp adjacent? (also just found this weird cinnamon covered pea thing?) I wish this was a joke.”
After some more back-and-forth with the brand's representatives, Karp took it upon himself to take his findings to a lab for testing to prove his point and make sure he hadn't consumed anything with the potential to make him unwell. He is still waiting on those findings.
He did find, however, that the second box of cereal in the two pack appeared to have clear tape along the bottom of the bag, leading him to wonder if the box had been tampered with.
"While we are still investigating this matter, we can say with confidence that this did not occur at our facility," Mike Siemienas, a representative for General Mills, to told The New York Times.
“We are waiting for the consumer to send us the package to investigate further. Any consumers who notice their cereal box or bag has been tampered with, such as the clear tape that was found in this case, should contact us.”