Cinnamon Toast Shrimp Isn’t Real, Probably, and Neither Are These Food Urban Legends

One of the hottest trending topics on Twitter this week comes to us from a guy who claims he found shrimp tails in his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Jensen Karp, a writer, podcast host, and comedian, is the man behind the now-infamous debacle, which has garnered media attention from The New York Times and prominent food websites such as Eater.

When the saga began, Karp seemed the victim of a nefarious tampering scheme. Now, however, with his thread’s stratospheric reach, he’s seeing himself recast as the newest iteration of Bean Dad: It’s been pointed out that Karp has a list of marketing credits, is married to the actress Danielle Fishel, has been accused of being a “manipulative gaslighting narcissistic ex-boyfriend,” in addition to an outright liar. 

Karp has been reveling in the spotlight, trumpeting claims made by other users that this whole caper looks a bit fishy.

Perhaps this is all some perfect storm of viral marketing, orchestrated by a performer who doesn’t seem inclined to quit. Karp’s whole story probably isn’t true, though the defenses used by cereal-maker General Mills to absolve itself of blame haven’t helped the situation much.

Which is to say: this is probably a bit of tomfoolery. What are the actual chances that two pieces of errant shrimp would end up in a bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, bought by a man with a knack for writing jokes and a sizable platform to brandish them?

Twitter’s freshest non-drama does, however, invoke other food myths that have come to pervade culinary and junk food folklore. Let’s revisit some of those so we don’t fall victim to the next Shrimp Tail Guy.

Does Mountain Dew really lower your sperm count?

Middle and high school aged boys came to tremble around the green elixir, as rumors spread about the food coloring agent Yellow 5—aka Tartrazine—lowering sperm count. When it comes to Mountain Dew, or any other FDA approved beverage that includes Yellow 5, there’s never enough of the actual food coloring to have an effect on one’s sperm count.

As Medical News Today explains, Yellow 5 has no effect on fertility; it’s one of the most commonly used food dyes on the market. The only side effects people may encounter are eczema, hyperactivity, and asthma, though they’re exceedingly rare.

Is Taco Bell’s meat really … not meat?

Taco Bell’s meat is meat, at least according to the U.S. court system. A class-action lawsuit filed against the chain in 2011 alleged that Taco Bell’s beef didn’t contain enough beef to be classified as such. The plaintiffs, represented by Alabama law firm Beasley Allen alleged that the beef in question contained too many oats, fillers and seasonings to meet USDA standards, NPR reported.

The firm threw in the towel after four months after Taco Bell waged a PR offensive, but still demurred a bit, releasing its official beef ingredients on its website for the first time. Technically, it’s still beef.

Does gum stick to your insides?

First of all, if you’ve ever believed this, I wish the answer were yes, but only for you specifically. But it’s not true.

From the Mayo Clinic:

Although chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it generally isn’t harmful if swallowed. Folklore suggests that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested. But this isn’t true. If you swallow gum, it’s true that your body can’t digest it. But the gum doesn’t stay in your stomach. It moves relatively intact through your digestive system and is excreted in your stool.

Do Twinkies really never expire?

The notion of indestructible Twinkies persists, despite being false. The actual shelf-life of a Twinkie is somewhere between 26 and 45 days, even with all of the preservatives that might lead you to believe they’re impervious to any rotting.

Does chocolate milk contain cow’s blood?

Chocolate milk, for some reason, remains shrouded in various urban legends. Some people might insist that it’s less nutritious than white milk (false), or that it comes exclusively from brown cows (this would be incredible, but sadly it’s false).

Another, far more unpleasant rumor about chocolate milk is that it’s leftover milk that was too full of blood and pus to be regular milk, so it’s mixed with chocolate. Again, this is false.

As Snopes writes:

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration oversees the safety of food products. Stringent standards have been established for all milk destined for consumers, including the chocolate variety. It is telling that this agency’s specifications contain no allowances for the use of blood-contaminated milk. Milk products (and other foodstuffs) that do not meet the agency’s criteria do not gain FDA approval and thus cannot be sold to consumers.

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