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[News] Are shrimp tails a cereal killer?

Floating around on social media this week, you might have seen a story about a man who claimed to have found shrimp tails in a box of cereal. Initially, it seemed like a lesson in the power of Twitter and the importance of companies taking social media seriously, but like all good stories, there’s a twist.

The tale started innocently enough. On March 22, Jensen Karp, a 41-year-old comedian in Los Angeles, tweeted a photo of shrimp tails he purportedly found in his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal:

The company, General Mills, initially offered a standard reply, apologizing and offering to replace the product, and offering to do more research:

“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!”

Karp, however, was dissatisfied with this response, as were many people on Twitter, many of whom wanted answers, particularly as some people are extremely allergic to shellfish. Others were skeptical of the claims, suggesting that this was either a fake story or a joke.

Later in the day (notably without inspecting the cereal in person), the Cinnamon Toast Crunch team for General Mills tweeted the following:

“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. We assure you that there’s no possibility of cross contamination with shrimp.”

Calling out a customer is always a risky strategy, and things escalated from there. Following that exchange, Karp claimed that there were additional foreign objects in the cereal box, including white string and black items that appeared to be baked into the cereal. He also suggested he was taking the evidence to a lab for further testing.

And then The New York Times picked up the story. In their March 23 article, the NYT quoted Karp as saying,

“I just want you to fix it, you know, for other people…“I’m not even like trying to say like, ‘Be better,’ or whatever. I’m literally just saying, ‘Go investigate it.’”

And that’s where it might have all ended. But then the next day — two days after the initial tweet — Karp’s seemingly heroic stand against corporate America came to a crashing halt. 

A number of people took to Twitter to call Karp’s character into question. Among them are comedian John Cullen, who claimed that Karp stole the name of his podcast, and artist Brandon Bird, who tweeted that Karp was not believable, based on a previous professional relationship. Then there was actress and comedian Brittani Nichols, who shared the poor experience she had working with Karp on the reality show Drop the Mic. Two women also got personal, claiming he had been an abusive boyfriend.

Are any of these claims about Karp true? And did Karp really find shrimp tails and other foreign objects in his cereal, or was he simply seeking his 15 minutes of fame? It’s possible we will never know—even as the accusations surfaced, Karp’s Twitter account fell silent.

One thing’s for certain: when you go viral on social media, it’s easy to lose control of the narrative. Gaining hundreds of thousands of followers may not be worth giving others a platform to air their grievances.

In other news

  • Identity cards get fishy. Last week in Taiwan, a popular sushi restaurant’s social media challenge astonished local officials in a week labeled “salmon chaos”. With citizens allowed to change national identity card names up to three times, the offer of a free all-you-can-eat fishy feast with five friends to anyone presenting a valid ID card using the word ‘salmon’ in their name went turbo (or is that turbot?). An explosion of salmon-related monikers registered at local government offices and changed back in the same week, included “Salmon Prince”, “Meteor Salmon King”, “Explosive Good Looking Salmon”, and “Salmon Fried Rice”, to name just a few. Annoyed officials spoke out — to appeal for calmer waters — and for young people to “cherish administration resources” and stop wasting everyone’s time.
  • Now that’s a high-profile hire. Born into the British royal family, Prince Harry (who is technically a duke) has joined a startup in Silicon Valley. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, Prince Harry will join BetterUp, Inc. as Chief Impact Officer. Prince Harry told the paper how he supports the company’s mental health and wellbeing mission because “proactive coaching provides endless possibilities for personal development, increased awareness, and an all-round better life.” In a statement on the company website, BetterUp CEO Alexi Robichaux said, “Prince Harry will expand on the work he’s been doing for years, as he educates and inspires our community and champions the importance of focusing on preventative mental fitness and human potential worldwide.” He added, “we are energized by his model of inspiration and impact through action.”
  • More FCC China rulings. BBC World News reports after a unanimous vote, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will revoke the licenses of three Chinese telcos due to FCC concerns about vulnerabilities leaving them open to “exploitation, influence, and control.” China Unicom, PacificNetworks, and ComNet previously gave explanations about their links to the Chinese government, however, the FCC did not accept them. Instead, the FCC moved to support the expulsion of these companies from the U.S. market.

    In a separate statement about recent subpoenas issued for several unnamed technology sector companies linked to China, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, “Beijing has engaged in conduct that blunts our technological edge and threatens our alliances,” sending signals that the new administration plans to continue a tough approach to Chinese tech firms.

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[News] Are shrimp tails a cereal killer? .