On a level, everyone knows that contamination is possible when it comes to mass-produced food. Occasionally I have found a green bean in a bag of frozen peas or a tater tot in my fries, and it’s fine. But when it comes to “seafood” and “breakfast cereal,” we’d like to think factories are kept pretty separate. But if this box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with dried shrimp tails is any indication, apparently not!
On Monday, comedian Jensen Karp tweeted at Cinnamon Toast Crunch, made by General Mills, asking for, oh, any explanation as to why these desiccated shrimp tails came out of his bag of morning cereal. At first, the brand insisted they weren’t shrimp tails at all, but “an accumulation of cinnamon sugar that can sometimes occur when ingredients aren’t thoroughly blended,” and that, in this instance, it just happens to look identical to the leftovers of a shrimp buffet. Upon deeper investigation, Karp assures that they were indeed shrimp tails. Cinnamon Toast Crunch has now issued a statement saying the shrimp incident (shrimpcident) did not occur at its facilities, and it must have been an issue of tampering.
Considering the number of Twitter hoaxes out there, it was reasonable of the New York Times to ask Karp if this is just a bad prank, but the comedian — who happens to be married to Danielle Fishel (a.k.a Topanga from Boy Meets World) and once performed under the rapper name “Hot Karl” — insists that it’s real, further revealing that within the cereal, he also found a string, something that looked like a pistachio, and what he fears could be rat feces. Karp is apparently trying to get the cereal tested by a lab, and a researcher is going to “morphologically identify the shrimp using microscopy and he will work with a team of researchers to use DNA to try and identify the putative shrimp down to species.”
The New York Times also notes that this is not the first time General Mills has had to contend with shrimp where they don’t belong. “In 2011, the company sued a Michigan blueberry packer after a shipment — which was intended for future use in blueberry scones — was found to be contaminated with pieces of shrimp,” the paper reports.
Of everything that could have gotten in there — nails, Chex, an actual mound of cinnamon sugar that just looks like a shrimp — shrimp really does have the element of surprise. And it’s inspiring people to intentionally mix shrimp and Cinnamon Toast Crunch in some new dishes. For now, we can only speculate as to how it got in there. A possibility: one day at the beach a shrimp snatched a beachgoer’s graham crackers, got a taste for cinnamon, spawned, and now there is a gang of cinnamon-hungry shrimp roving the country, wreaking havoc on innocent cereals. You’ve been warned. Or, as some Twitter users contend, Karp is just lying — though the only upside there seems to be a week’s worth of internet attention and a lifetime dubbed “Shrimp tail guy.”