A Brooklyn pizzeria is doing its part to turn the tide on the dangerous “Tide Pod Challenge.”
Vinnie’s Pizzeria is now serving “Pied Pods,” mini calzones that resemble the orange-and-blue liquid laundry detergent packets teens have been seen biting into or chewing and spitting up in a recent wave of viral videos on social media.
Owner Sean Berthiaume, 36, says he’s just trying to get teenagers participating in what experts call a dangerous fad to “actually eat real food.”
“If you have the desire to eat these orange and blue swirled things, you might as well eat something that’s not going to poison you,” notes the Greenpoint resident who’s been following recent warnings of the dangers of the trend via social media and news outlets.
Berthiuame says the idea for “Pied Pods” came to him in his sleep Wednesday night: “The whole Tide story is everywhere,” he explains, referring to coverage of announcements Wednesday by YouTube and Facebook that the websites would remove posts violating their policies of prohibiting any promotion of self-injury. “I think it just invaded my dreams.”
“I wanted to figure out how to make them actually edible and comment on how ridiculous this whole thing was.”
His calzones, sold in $5 servings of two, are stuffed with pepperoni, ricotta and mozzarella, and decorated with orange and blue swirls of mozzarella, dyed with food coloring “for that hypnotic pizzazz,” according to a post on Vinnie’s Instagram account.
They’re being made to order at Vinnie’s Williamsburg and Greenpoint locations, so customers can request any fillings they’d like, including vegan options.
Berthiaume doesn’t expect to offer his “Pied Pods” for very long — “I didn’t wake up and expect to sell a million of these” — but he’s constantly inventing new items for his pizzeria’s almost 27,000 Instagram followers.
“I like to keep busy myself when I’m not behind the counter,” says the creator of the viral “Inception”-like pizza-on-pizza slice. “I like to make stuff, to entertain our faithful online following.”
Vinnie’s two Instagram posts announcing the “Pied Pods” as a “gateway food for kids to get back into actual food” were both removed from the site as of Friday afternoon, likely censored by platform moderators, Berthiaume believes.
“I understand that kids should be not videoing themselves eating soap,” he says of that action, but “our whole point is we’re against people eating [them].”
In spite of the actions YouTube and Instagram are taking to stem the #tidepod fad, Berthiaume predicts that “a million people are still going to be talking about it.”
The exact origins of the viral challenge are unknown, but reports of teenagers intentionally ingesting Tide capsules have increased in frequency in recent weeks, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Last week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission posted a Tweet launching a campaign for “Human People United Against Eating Laundry Pods” and Tide enlisted NFL player Rob Gronkowski for a public service announcement explaining why eating the pods is a “bad idea.”