Now that the Momo and Tide Pod challenges are over, parents can relax, right? Nope. We now have a new viral craze to keep us up at night: the “shell on challenge” which is becoming increasingly popular among teens and tweens on the Snapchat app. To take part, kids of all ages are challenging each other to eat various foods with their shells on. They have been documented biting into unpeeled bananas, eggs with their hard shells intact and, perhaps most alarmingly, plastic and cardboard product packaging like baby carrots inside the packaging and even sandwiches in plastic bags.
It’s unclear exactly when this trend started, but it seems to have gained momentum over the past few weeks on social media. There have already been dozens of videos shared across the internet of kids ingesting questionable and dangerous items. The viral challenge has caught the attention of doctors, who believe the stunt could lead to serious health effects.
While eating organic materials such as fruit peels (often used in recipes) is not dangerous, consuming plastic has major health risks. Bisphenol A, a material commonly used in making plastics, has been shown to affect human hormones. Some chemicals in polyvinyl chloride, popularly known as PVC, have also been linked to a development of certain cancers.
Dr. Danelle Stabel, a physician at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, argued that consuming the skins of vegetables or fruits, especially when left unwashed, also poses a threat to human health. They may contain pesticides that can cause people to get sick when ingested. Plus, kids who participate in the shell on challenge are also at risk of choking on the materials the food packagings are made from, something that Stabel believes is more concerning.
“Those are more concerning to me because anything that you eat that is not meant to be digested, you can choke on…The risk of breathing that in and choking is the biggest thing to me, and again it’s just not meant to be digested depending on how big of a bite they take,” Dr. Stabel stated.
Whether your kids are participating in the shell on challenge or not, take this opportunity to talk to them about challenges, social media pressure and even cyberbullying. And remind your children not to like or comment on posts like the shell on challenges as they should not be encouraging other people to do it, either.