A Man Claimed He Found Shrimp Tails In His Cinnamon Toast Crunch, And It Broke The Internet

From the gaslighting to the police drop-off to carcinologists getting involved, this whole shrimp tail saga is chaos.

shrimp tails cereal toast crunch

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Welcome to 2021: A year where a dad can starve his daughter for six hours because he refused to help her open a can of beans. A year when a woman can go viral for using superglue in place of hairspray. And apparently, now a year where someone finding shrimp tails in their cereal is just a totally normal thing.

Yep. If you’ve been on the internet over the last few days you’ve likely seen people talking about “shrimp tails”. And no, sadly “shrimp tails” is not some quirky modern adaption of the beloved animated show, DuckTales. 

Shrimp tails have actually been trending because Jensen Karp, a writer, comedian and podcast host from Los Angeles, claimed he found literal prawn tails in his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch — and it’s truly sent the internet into a spin.

What The Hell Is Going On With The Cereal?

On Wednesday, after finishing a bowl for breakfast, Karp kicked of the “shrimp tails in my cereal” saga by tweeting out a photo of what appears to be two sugar-coated prawn tails among some Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares.

Ummmm @CTCSquares – why are there shrimp tails in my cereal? (This is not a bit),” the comedian said, before the company strangely offered to send out a replacement box to fix the issue.

“We’re sorry to see what you found! We would like to report this to our quality team and replace the box,” Cinnamon Toast Crunch responded. “Can you please send us a DM to collect more details?”

“GUYS – I am not sure I’m ready for another box!!!,” Karp understandably replied.

However, despite not wanting a replacement box, Karp did follow the cereal company’s wishes and privately messaged some more information to try and figure out what was going on — and that’s when it all went downhill.

Publicly addressing the issue, Cinnamon Toast Crunch tried to do damage control by saying that the image looked like “an accumulation of cinnamon sugar” and chose to totally deny that the foreign objects were shrimp.

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

“Ok, well after further investigation with my eyes, these are cinnamon-coated SHRIMP TAILS, you weirdos,” Karp responded. “I wasn’t all that mad until you now tried to gaslight me?”

From here, things just got weird. Jensen Karp then spent the next two days just exclusively tweeting about his shrimp tail saga as he got extremely hung up on the fact that Cinnamon Toast Crunch tried to gaslight him.

In an attempt to rectify the situation and get down to the bottom of whether shellfish had actually managed to sneak its way into a cereal box, Cinnamon Toast Crunch decided the only logical solution was to send out a pre-paid envelope to have the “shrimp” be tested by their “quality team”.

But after being publicly gaslit, Karp decided he would only give up one shrimp tail and keep the other to ensure the company “don’t continue to try to say it’s sugar and make me look insane”.

Somehow, it still managed to get even wilder. Going back on their offer of the envelope, Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead asked Karp to stay home for “three to four hours” so that a FedEx employee could come and personally pick up the “accumulation of cinnamon sugar”. Karp denied this request.

“I won’t be giving you the stuff… Again, your tweet calling it sugar was super weird and the fact you haven’t said anything to the contrary doesn’t allow me to trust you with it at all,” Karp said in response. “You’re being super sketchy and odd.”

So, after refusing to send in the shrimp tails, General Mills, the company behind Cinnamon Toast Crunch, sent an email requesting that Karp drop the prawns off to “local law enforcement” as the shellfish “may be product tampering and we need the opportunity to investigate the packaging”.

“I’m not walking into a random police station yelling, ‘Here’s the shrimp tails that General Mills wants!’ like it’s a smoking gun from a murder,” Karp emailed back.

All the while, as General Mills tried to find a way to recover the shrimp tails, Jensen Karp was noticing even more issues with his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

After investigating the package, Karp found black specks cooked into the cereal squares and scattered throughout the bag, which he purchased from Costco in a double package.

Along with these unidentified dots, which some speculate could be rat droppings, Karp also found string, pieces of cereal that were red in colour, and what appears to be dental floss. Jensen Karp claims that the other bag of cereal was actually sealed off at the bottom with sticky tape.

So, Is It Actually Shrimp Tails?

Confused by the contents of his cereal bag, Karp decided to conduct his own investigation by getting the “black things” tested in a lab and getting the alleged shrimp “DNA tested” to make sure they aren’t just clumps of sugar. A carcinologist, a person who studies crustaceans, also volunteered to “morphologically identify the shrimp using microscopy”.

While the reaction may seem extreme, Jensen Karp went on to clarify that he was never planning to investigate the problem personally but that General Mill’s response, to immediately claim the foreign object was sugar, pushed him to do so.

“It’s a deadly allergy to many (and non-Kosher) and that didn’t seem to matter beyond offering me a new box,” Karp tweeted. “I originally approached them thinking it would help out! Then, they said I’m mistaking sugar for a crustacean. Anyway, I’m testing the DNA of a shrimp tail now.”

While investigations are still underway, Mike Siemienas, a spokesperson for General Mills told TIME that the company “can say with confidence that this did not occur at our facility”.

“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.”

General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening added that “it’s highly unlikely” that the contamination happened at their facility, but that the company is currently working with Karp to “figure out… what happened between when it left our docks and when he opened it”.

But Jensen Karp also holds firm that he did not plant the shrimp tails into the cereal bag. “I’m a comedy writer, but like, there’s no joke here,” he told the New York Times.

“To take down my favorite cereal brand? I don’t even know why that’s a funny joke. I love Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s the only cereal I eat.”

For now, neither Karp nor General Mills have released lab results to say what the mystery items are, even though they sure do look like shrimp tails.

The Rise Of Shrimp Tail Memes

Even though product tampering is a very serious issue, Cinnamon Toast Crunch’s stance that two shrimp tails just magically slipped themselves into a brand new cereal bag is hilarious.

The pure chaos of the entire saga, from the gaslighting to the police drop-off to the carcinologist and labs getting involved, made “Shrimp Tails In My Cinnamon Toast Crunch” the perfect story to be turned into a meme.

But to add another level to just how truly unpredictable this whole thing has been, Jensen Karp is actually also married to Danielle Fishel aka Topanga from Boy Meets World aka the woman who was every millennial’s ’90s crush. Chance the Rapper also revealed that Karp had actually given him $5,000 to shoot a music video around eight years ago.

But Has Shrimp Tails Guy Already Been Milkshake Ducked?

As the saying goes: All good things must come to an end. And people going viral and then getting exposed for their problematic past is no different, as we’ve learned with Milkshake Duck.

After the Cinnamon Toast Crunch saga went viral, previous partners and colleagues accussed Jensen Karp of abusive behaviour and being a liar.

“The shrimp tails guy is both a marketing professional and someone who’s lied to my face without flinching,” artist Brandon Bird tweeted. “All I’m insinuating is that you do not need to give him your time or brain space.”

One of Karp’s ex-girlfriends, writer Melissa Stetten, also claimed that the “man behind the viral posts” is a “manipulative gaslighting narcissistic ex-boyfriend”.

“[He] once told me he was surprised I hadn’t killed myself because my life was so worthless,” Stetten tweeted. “Getting lots of texts from girls still in therapy over his terror. At least we have this fun little club!”

Writer Rory Uphold added that Karp is “the most abusive person I have ever been with” and that it took her “a year to recover mentally” from the pair’s relationship.

Despite his 48-hour shrimp tail tweetfest, Jensen Karp has not commented on the abuse allegations. Junkee has reached out for comment. 

Michelle Rennex is a senior writer at Junkee. She tweets at @michellerennex.