The Cinnamon Toast Crunch shrimp fiasco explained

Everything you need to know about those "shrimp tails."

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
3 min read


General Mills

The CEO of General Mills is clapping back at claims of crustacean caudae caught up in the process of packaging its popular cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

In case you've been ignoring all media for the past 24 hours and haven't heard: Jensen Karp, musician-producer-personality and husband to Danielle Fishel, the actress who played Topanga in Boy Meets World, shared images on Twitter on Monday of what appear to be some shrimp tails and other most unbreakfast-worthy detritus swimming around a package of cereal he bought from a Los Angeles-area big-box store.

"Based on the information we have right now, it is highly unlikely this occurred at a General Mills facility," General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening said Wednesday on CNBC. "So right now, we're in the process of working with that consumer to try to figure out, kind of, what happened between when it left our docks and when he opened it."

Harmening's appearance comes after the incident went viral over the last couple of days, with Karp documenting the process of dealing with the company. That's led to lots of shrimp cereal jokes, some nervousness about the safety of cereal and some people reacting to Karp's plight with skepticism and even sharing unfavorable personal stories about him. Karp claims that after reaching out to General Mills, the company said the apparent seafood bits were more likely globs of unmixed ingredients or the result of someone tampering with the packaging.

Karp says he's planning to send samples of the un-cereal to the company while also sending samples to a third-party lab to confirm that it is, in fact, shrimp.

There are two leading theories of what's going on here. And, bewilderingly, there seems to be evidence for both. As General Mills says (and certainly hopes) is true, someone (or something) could've tampered with the package after it left the company's production facility.

This is more than just wishful thinking on the part of the corporation, because Karp himself tweeted that the other bag in the family pack he bought "seems taped up (?)" and an image included in the tweet shows what looks like clear packing tape of some sort.

Another theory, put forward by a number of commenters on Twitter, is that somewhere in the production process, rodents got into some ingredients for the cereal and nested there. This could explain photos Karp shares of what look like droppings. "I think it's also important to state that the black things - are cooked (?) INTO the square?" he says. The shrimp tails and other bits of detritus could be discarded items collected by these rodents for nesting material.

Talk about an unwanted extra crunch.

It's very weird that a single package of the same product, as reported by Karp, shows potential evidence of product tampering and of cooked-in contamination. Makes me wonder if the apparent droppings were more compressed into the cereal than cooked in. But who knows?

One thing is for sure: a lab confirming the shrimp tails are actually shrimp tails won't solve the mystery of where they came from -- unless the lab confirms they aren't shrimp tails and are really remarkably shrimp-tail-like pieces of sugar.

If that's the case, it would seem nothing actually too gross has happened here (provided the other foreign objects are sugar too). Then maybe we're only months away from General Mills capitalizing on the fiasco and releasing a limited run of Cinnamon Shrimp Crunch.

"To save their company, Cinnamon Toast Crunch needs to make cereal classy again," wrote one Twitter user, and what's classier than shrimp?"

I know what outcome I'm rooting for.