When you tear open a new box of cereal and pour yourself a bowl, you typically have a pretty good idea of what’s going to come tumbling out: relatively uniform squares or O’s or pillows, or a standard mix of flakes and clusters. This was not the experience of one man, a Los Angeles–based comedian named Jensen Karp, who was cravin’ those crazy squares. Inside his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, interspersed with the normal cereal pieces, this man found what he determined were cinnamon-sugar-coated shrimp tails.
“Ummmm,” Karp tweeted earlier this week, alongside a photo of what certainly appear to be crustacean parts, before demanding a response from the cereal’s official Twitter account. (He also assured his followers that “this is not a bit.”) And so began an elaborate saga, which the New York Times has detailed in an article titled “The Curious Case of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Box.” Indeed.
Upon discovering the concerning bits, Karp says he first texted his wife, Danielle Fishel Karp, who happens to be Topanga from Boy Meets World, and then emailed General Mills, alerting them to this case. But it wasn’t until he fired off his tweet, which subsequently went viral and elicited widespread revulsion, that he got a response. “Privately, they were still being very nice,” Karp told the Times, noting that General Mills offered to send him a fresh box. (He declined.) But then, Cinnamon Toast Crunch released a public statement on Twitter and escalated the situation.
“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,” reads the statement. “We assure you that there’s no possibility of cross contamination with shrimp.”
Karp, who says Cinnamon Toast Crunch is his favorite breakfast cereal, and the only one he eats, was not pleased with the cereal brand. “Ok, well after further investigation with my eyes, these are cinnamon coated SHRIMP TAILS, you weirdos,” he tweeted in response. “I wasn’t all that mad until you now tried to gaslight me?” It was then that Karp decided to go scavenging deeper into his cereal box and uncovered a revolting assortment of detritus, all crusted in sugar: more “shrimp skins-looking things,” “a small string,” something resembling a pistachio, and what he thought might be rat feces. He also checked the other box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch he purchased — he bought a two-pack — and noticed what looked like clear tape along the bottom of the unopened box.
“While we are still investigating this matter, we can say with confidence that this did not occur at our facility,” a General Mills representative told the Times, noting that they are now “waiting for the consumer to send us the package to investigate further.”
However, Karp doesn’t want to send the cereal to General Mills. He’d rather get it tested by an independent lab or researcher, and has contacted several, requesting their services; late last night, he reported on Twitter that a “crustacean researcher” has agreed to investigate the unsavory bits. He says he’s not currently considering legal action — though that could change if he confirms that the black specks in the cereal were in fact rat poop. (Before discovering the non-cereal contents, Karp did, unfortunately, enjoy a bowl.) The overwhelming emotion he’s left with is irritation. “All you have to do is say, ‘This is such a bummer, we’re going to look into it. We’re going to recall the ones from your Costco,’” he told the Times. “But instead, they wanted to basically gaslight me.” Karp told the New York Post that his wife is “honestly mad” about the whole situation as well. Following the cereal brand’s initial response, she tweeted that she was “truly at a loss for words.”
Best of luck to this man as he perseveres to get to the bottom of this caper — and to all of us, the next time we decide to crack open a box of cereal and find our minds teeming with images of shrimp tails and rat feces.