A West Midlands school has warned its students not to eat laundry detergent capsules after an internet meme supposedly encouraging people to eat them went viral.
Parents of children at St John's C of E Middle School in Bromsgrove were told this week: "We have been made aware of a current trend that children (not any of St John’s children) have been digesting liquid washing machine tablets which can make them seriously ill.
"Please could we ask parents and guardians to be vigilant."
The "tide pod" meme – in which people say they enjoy eating the multicoloured detergent packs, and encourage others to eat them – originated in America and has spread across the pond in recent days. The meme grew so large that Proctor & Gamble, Tide's parent company, and even the US government, had to step in to warn people not to actually eat them.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission said last week: "A meme should not become a family tragedy. Don't eat poison."
However, although there are videos showing people tasting the pods, the meme is largely ironic and designed to provoke a shocked reaction from those less versed in internet humour.
One parent, David Robertson, told the Birmingham Mail: "I don’t think it’s necessary to warn my daughter not to eat them – she’s not the type of kid to do stupid dares or challenges.
"I just don’t get it. Ultimately, the internet is to blame. We are all guilty of overusing it, staring at a screen all day.
“But when it’s affecting our children it seems far more dangerous.I think it’s good that the school is sending out the warning. The people putting these challenges out there are to blame."
The school's deputy head teacher, Alison Elwell, told BuzzFeed News: "We take the welfare and safety of our pupils very seriously and are proactive with our safeguarding.
"A member of staff overheard some of our older children talking about the Tide Pod challenge, questioning if it would be dangerous. Obviously, we had the discussion about the possible harmful consequences with these children, but were concerned that others may also know about it.
"We took the decision to send a message out to parents, as often children are more aware of issues/challenges trending than adults."
She said the school was unaware of any children actually eating one of them, but still wanted to inform parents so they could discuss it with their children.
"Some children can be heavily influenced by what they watch and read on the internet and whilst we would hope that none of our pupils would carry out such a silly act, by the nature of them being children, they don’t always think about the possible consequences of their actions," she said.
"We therefore feel that by being proactive we are reducing the risk of any child attempting this challenge."