Viral trends are often pretty weird, but this one manages also to be stupid and potentially dangerous. After several people filmed themselves biting into or swallowing Tide Pods, YouTube has warned that channels sharing such content will receive a strike and the videos will be removed when flagged by users.
Eating the detergent-filled pods began as a meme based on the idea that they look like tasty fruit-flavored snacks. Their appearance is why consumers are advised to keep them away from children who might be tempted to try and eat them.
Some YouTubers latched onto the meme, and so began the Tide Pod Challenge, a series of videos where people eat, or in some cases pretend to eat, the pods. It led to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issuing a tweet last week asking people not to engage in the bizarre practice.
While most people wouldn't consume something designed to wash clothes, the trend has been attributed to a high number of poisonings in the US this year. In the first 15 days of 2018, 39 teenagers contacted the American Association of Poison Control Centres (AAPCC) to report intentional poisoning. 91 percent of these cases were related to swallowing Tide Pods. There were only 39 similar cases involving teenagers in all of 2016, and 53 in 2017.
Consumer Reports says the pods are potentially toxic as they often contain ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and long-chain polymers, which can burn the mouth, digestive system and stomach. The AAPCC warns that swallowing them could lead to seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma or, in extreme cases, even death.
YouTube said any channel that receives a strike would have its access to the site limited for three months. Extra strikes could lead to the channel being suspended. The decision comes after Tide’s parent company, Proctor and Gamble, said it has “been working with leading social media networks to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies.”