The year is 2018, and America's young people are so despondent about the state of the world that they're hanging out at ax-throwing bars and munching on Tide pods. No, seriously: The latest viral internet trend involves videos of teens eating the brightly colored laundry detergent packets.
It's difficult to pinpoint who started "Tide Pod challenge," as this idiotic endeavor is now called. Like other ill-advised stunts — such as the cinnamon challenge, in which people attempt to eat a spoonful of powdered cinnamon, resulting in choking and spewing and the occasional collapsed lung — it's spread quickly across the internet. And it's seemingly even more dangerous: Tide pods contain toxic ingredients like ethanol and hydrogen peroxide, and consuming them can cause burns to the digestive system, seizures, or loss of consciousness, among other health problems. There were 39 reports of teens "intentionally misusing" detergent pods in just the first two weeks of 2018, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers cited by Time. (In comparison, there were 53 such reports for the entirety of 2017.)
Spurred by public health concerns, YouTube has removed all videos of people eating the household products. Meanwhile, Tide has taken to Twitter with a public service announcement starring NFL player Rob Gronkowski to dissuade the public from consuming its products.
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But some other businesses are looking to capitalize on the bizarre trend that's worked America into a spring meadow-scented froth: Much like they did with the (somewhat less deadly) Pokémon Go craze, a number of restaurants are now serving Tide pod-inspired drinks and dishes.
Hurts Donut in Springfield, Missouri went viral on Facebook with a photo of a doughnut frosted to resemble a Tide pod along with this clever commentary: "I thought this might clear up any confusion there might have been but now adults are throwing donuts in the washer."
Vinnie's Pizzeria in Brooklyn unveiled "Pied Pods," which are stuffed with mozzarella and pepperoni and topped with cheese that's been dyed alarming shades of blue and orange.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, metal bar Duff's is now serving a Tide pods shot that mimics the dual-colored theme of the real thing, but (presumably) does not actually contain detergent:
More restaurants serving novelty dishes that look like detergent packets are bound to crop up — Tide pod burger, anyone? — but in the meantime, youths are busying themselves with Photoshop jobs of imagined Tide pod foods:
Here's to hoping that America's teens soon find their way back to more wholesome pastimes like vodka tampons or Silly Bandz.