*Nicolas John cowrote this piece.
Until relatively recently, eating Tide Pods wasn’t a concern. Tide, apparently cognizant of the outside risk, even went out of its way to advertise the ways in which the brightly-colored pods full of laundry detergent were childproofed.
But while they were able to foil those clever kids, they couldn’t anticipate that teens and adults would develop a plainly nutso taste of their own — or the attention the phenomenon would get.
The Internet is alight with teens and adults appearing to eat this “forbidden fruit” and challenging each other to eat the detergent packets as part of the “Tide Pod Challenge.” Enter New York’s regulation-obsessed pols.
Fact is, this is hardly an epidemic requiring lawmakers’ attention. But that’s not stopping them from proposing legislation to force Tide to make these detergent pods less appetizing to children and to further childproof them.
“We want to make sure these poisonings are prevented . . . All we have to make sure is that public safety trumps their profits,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), who introduced the bill along with atate Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan). Their solution is to “impose clear warning labels on all packaging, including each pod,” according to Hoylman.
Between the two, they seem to think Tide wants people to eat detergent in order to increase its profits. That’s asinine. Not only has Tide gone to great lengths to prevent children from eating the pods, they even made a viral video to stop adults from doing it.
These pols clearly have too much time on their hands. For one thing, the number of poison-control calls for ingesting Tide Pods is about the same as for other products. Second, it isn’t children who are participating in the Tide Pod Challenge — it’s adults. Third, the pods simply aren’t appetizing.
That’s why calls to further childproof the pods miss the point entirely. To the extent there’s any problem, it’s with adults, not children. The pods are already childproofed and advertised as such. And if an adult is determined to eat a Tide Pod, another label warning isn’t going to stop them.
Nor should we assume anyone’s tempted to eat them because they look delicious. Hold them to your nose: They smell like chemicals. If they’re considered appetizing because of their colorful appearance, why don’t adults eat legos or drink dish soap? That an object is bright and shiny does not, alone, make it food.
“We’re asking for all laundry detergent pods to be uniform in color,” said Hoylman. He added, “they are so alluring, they smell sweet and they look like gummy bears . . . They might as well say ‘bite me’ on them.”
Hoylman’s own Darwin Award-worthy palate is not a strong basis from which to constrain the rest of society.
Had he hopped online, he would have understood that adults are not mistaking Tide Pods for candy. Quite the opposite. Grown humans know full well that they’re ingesting poison, not food. That’s why it’s called a “challenge.”
David Taylor, the CEO of Tide’s parent company, said it best: “Even the most stringent standards and protocols, labels and warnings can’t prevent intentional abuse fueled by poor judgment and the desire for popularity.”
Accidental ingestion rates of Tide Pods are high, but “well within the range of many other common household products,” notes The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham.
The solution proposed in New York wouldn’t deter those engaging in the Tide Pod Challenge. Chasing headlines and simply “doing something” is a poor approach to lawmaking.
Sometimes, stupid people do stupid things. The behavior of the lowest common denominator shouldn’t effectively ban the rest of us from access to products we would otherwise use and enjoy.
Image credit: Kyle T Perry