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5 Viral Food Challenges That Were Straight up Dangerous

We’re questioning why these were even a thing.

Going viral, whether it's from a picture, Tweet, story, or video, means your content is spreading quickly and widely on the internet through platforms like social media and email. It can get well over a million views within a matter of minutes. From YouTube to Instagram to TikTok, people will do anything to get views. In some cases, people will create challenges to get people to try them, therefore making their content spread widely throughout the world. Sometimes, those viral trends turn out to be dangerous, but because the challenge was going viral, people continue to do it, even if that means it's doing bodily damage.

Food challenges have been a big trend that tends to go viral often. Unfortunately, not all of them are safe. We spoke with Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT, author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook, The 7 Ingredient Healthy Pregnancy Cookbook, and Fueling Male Fertility, to recap some of the worst food challenges throughout time. She explains why they were so bad for you, even if they were seemingly harmless. Once you're done reading, take a look at The Most Dangerous TikTok Food Trends You Should Never Try for more on food crazes.

The Cinnamon Challenge


Back in the early 2010s, the Cinnamon Challenge was meant for people to shove a spoonful of ground cinnamon into their mouths in 60 seconds without drinking any liquid to wash it down. What seems like a fairly easy task on paper, actually has more side effects than you might think.

"People can gag or choke on the cinnamon, which can be extremely dangerous," explains Manaker. "Plus, inhaling large amounts of cinnamon may damage the lungs."

According to Children's Minnesota, choking on cinnamon while inhaling it may cause inflammation in the lungs, as well as thickening of lung tissue, and scarring. If this does happen, it may lead to either pneumonia, a collapsed lung, or permanent lung damage.

The Carolina Reaper Challenge

Carolina Reaper Pepper

You might've remembered the "Ghost Pepper Challenge," or "Hot Pepper Challenge," which peaked in about 2012. The idea was to eat a ghost pepper whole without anything to ease the heat. Well, if you thought this was extreme, the Carolina Reaper made it that much worse.

In 2017, the Carolina Reaper was deemed the world's hottest chili pepper by Guinness World Records. So, of course, people had to start trying to eat them whole.

"Some people may not tolerate these very hot peppers and can experience a seizure, vomiting, and in extreme cases, even death," Manaker explains.

Tide Pod Challenge

Pretending to Eat Tide Pods

"While tide pods can look like appealing candy, they are made of laundry detergent," says Manaker. "You don't have to be a dietitian to know that eating laundry detergent is not a good idea."

Although something that may seem obvious, that did not stop people from eating Tide Pods in the late 2010s. According to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison control centers received reports of almost 220 teenagers exposed to tide pod capsules in 2017, with about 25% of those cases being intentional.

People who have been exposed to the capsules have been hospitalized with vomiting, breathing difficulties, and loss of consciousness. Several deaths also occurred during this very questionable viral challenge.

Dry Scooping Challenge

different protein powders

If you've been on TikTok recently, you might have crossed this trend scrolling through your "For You" page. This is the trend that encourages people to take pre-workout powders without water. You take a scoop of protein powder and just eat it like so.

"Dry scooping is linked to outcomes like heart palpitations, lung damage, and infection from too much inhalation," says Manaker. "People can experience digestive issues, too."

According to Hackensack Meridian Health,  if you do consume a dry scoop of a pre-workout mix, you may also accidentally inhale some of the powder, which isn't intended to be swallowed dry. Therefore, dry scooping may trigger health problems such as trouble breathing and heart attacks. Even if you are young and healthy.

Placing an avocado in water 


Although this is technically not a challenge, this hack did go viral. The intended hope for this trend was to keep the avocado from developing those mushy brown spots. It meant having access to a fresher avocado for longer.

Tik Tok brought the trend to light by storing avocados in filled water bottles and placing them in the fridge. Then, you cut the avocados to see healthy, green, and fresh fruit.

"Trying to extend the life of your avocado by putting it in water may sound like a good idea in theory," states Manaker, but storing avocados in water can encourage bacteria growth and lead to foodborne illnesses."

The FDA also agreed to that, stating to Newsweek that this life hack could harbor and breed harmful bacteria, such as salmonella.

Kayla Garritano
Kayla Garritano graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more about Kayla