- Numerous reviews on Amazon for Tide Pods reference a dangerous meme.
- The meme references a popular laundry product and how it looks like candy.
- The rise of the meme has coincided with incidents involving people intentionally ingesting Tide Pods, but the reviews have not been taken down yet.
Don’t eat the yellow snow – or the orange, white, and blue pods.
A viral meme referencing eating the laundry product Tide Pods has exploded on the internet in recent weeks. The meme refers to the pods as if they were a food item, like the snack known as Fruit Gushers, and how they look like they should be edible.
It hasn’t stayed in the confined social media circles of Twitter and Tumblr, as memes are wont to do, and has spilled over into the world of online shopping. A search through the product page for Tide Pods on Amazon yields numerous joke reviews and answers to customer questions that refer to the laundry product as a healthy snack.
Many of the joke responses on Amazon go back weeks.
The joke’s start time is murky, but a 2015 Onion article that satirizes media reports of children ingesting the pods seems to be an early origin. Tide maker Procter & Gamble responded by adding a bitter agent to the pods and including an additional warning to keep them out of the reach of children.
But, it’s harder to ward off young adults who should know better.
As recently as last year, a video from sketch comedy site Collegehumor.com also made light of the fact that the pods look like a tempting candy. Later that year, another article from the Onion made a similar joke.
The meme has gained a higher profile in recent days as the joke has gotten divorced from its origins and reinterpreted. A report from New York magazine’s viral tech vertical Select All captured the trend at its “fever pitch” in December, but Google Trends reports show that it’s only grown in popularity from there.
The “Tide Pod challenge” has gained popularity with teens posting YouTube videos putting the product in their mouths, and it’s blurring the line between fun and danger. Doctors are now warning people not to eat the pods, no matter how appetizing they look, as the chemicals inside are poisonous and could lead to diarrhea and vomiting. The chemicals have been linked to at least 10 deaths among children and seniors.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers said about 40 cases of Tide Pod poisoning have been reported in 2018 so far, with half of the cases involving pods that were “intentionally ingested.”
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of people who use our products,” a statement from Proctor and Gamble reads. “They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if meant as a joke.”
It’s clear that the joke has gone too far at this point. It might be obvious to the average Twitter or Tumblr user what is a joke and what is not, but Amazon has a higher standard for reviews on its product pages. Though the product’s description makes it clear the product is not for eating, the reviews confusingly remain.
Amazon is able to tightly control reviews. Take as an example the controversial Michael Wolff book on President Trump, “Fire and Fury.” Amazon limited the ability to review to only those verified to have purchased the book, and removed any and all reviews not directly related to the content.
The same has not been done for reviews recommending buyers poison themselves.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.