The Tide Pod Challenge

Garret Roberts

As 2018 began, there were very few expectations in the news cycle. From political discourse to a snow storm burying Pennsylvania, the news began fairly normally. What we didn’t expect was a new and deadly game to arise: the Tide Pod Challenge.

The Tide Pod Challenge is simple: the challenger bites into one of Tide’s colorful laundry pods, then quickly spits out the detergent that floods into their mouth. The film containing the detergent isn’t meant to be tough, so merely putting it in your mouth is often enough to break it open. You “win” by merely doing the challenge when asked and challenging your friends to try it.

It isn’t known who started the original challenge, but the results have been devastating on the teenagers who participated. Within the first two weeks of 2018, over 40 reports of exposure to the detergent have been filed with the American Association of Poison Control Centers. This is 20 percent of the 200 laundry detergent related incidents reported for the entire 12 months of 2017.

With such a surge in incidents, Tide took to Twitter to inform buyers to use common sense with their product. Recruiting the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski as a spokesperson, they let their social media followers know that eating Tide Pods is a “No, no, no.” The video, despite its humorous tone, let consumers know Tide’s stance on the issue.

The event begs the question: Where did people get the idea to eat laundry detergent?

Tide Pods have been criticized in the past for their colorful, candy-like appearance that appeals to younger children or animals. As a result, a warning was placed on the box to warn parents to keep them out of the reach of kids and pets alike.

In this case, the victims of this craze are teenagers from 13 to 19 — certainly not young children. People in this age range are often responsible enough to do their own laundry and should have enough common sense not to eat the same detergent they use to clean their clothes.

While the original culprit behind the challenge may not be known, the memes about eating the pods saw a surge at the end of 2017 and continue to this day. Starting around Dec. 26, 2017, Google Trends shows that the phrase “eating tide pods” gained a massive boost in searches in the United States.

The date lines up with one of the popular memes around tide pods: Twitter user @nightfilm messaging the Gushers account about making laundry pod fruit snacks. This series of tweets quickly went viral, and the “Tide Pod” memes began. Twitter now has countless memes about the pods, even infecting the post telling people not to eat them.

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Twitter user @nightfilm contacting Gushers. 1 of 2.
Twitter user @nightfilm contacting Gushers. 2 of 2.

Many people online have taken the issue lightly despite its seriousness. Laundry detergent, while not a surprise to anybody, is not intended to enter the human body. Many detergents contain dangerous chemicals including known carcinogens and ingesting them can lead to death. While it’s fun to joke about how delicious they look, some people may begin to wonder what it tastes like. Not every Twitter user understands the sarcasm in your humor, and may take your joke seriously.

Tide has taken measures to stop the incidents from occurring. Retailers have been told to lock their pods up, only allowing access to employees who hold a key. People are getting hurt because it appears that someone wanted more likes on Twitter. When it comes down to life and laughs, always choose life.