Taiwan political stunt backfires as 3 hospitalised after eating free laundry pods distributed in campaign

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Jan 9, 2024 at 12:04 PM

Reading time: 1 minute

A political promotional stunt in Taiwan took a disastrous turn when at least three people were hospitalised after consuming laundry detergent pods distributed as campaign freebies by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Hou You-yi.

According to The San Diego Union Tribune, 460,000 detergent pods were distributed, initially intended as fun freebies for supporters. This backfired enormously when several attendees mistook the pods as jelly sweets. Hung Jung-chang, the head of Hou’s campaign office, swiftly issued an apology, acknowledging the unintended consequences of the campaign giveaway. Hung expressed regret over the situation and announced the campaign’s efforts to inform the rest of the public that the detergent pods were not meant for consumption.

“In the next wave of house-to-house visits, we will not distribute this kind of campaign material,” Hung stated in a video aired on SET iNews. He continued: “We will also stress to our villagers through our grassroots organisations that they are laundry balls, not candies.”

The detergent pods were distributed in packaging adorned with the KMT party slogan, featuring images of Hou You-yi and his running mate. The packets included instructions on usage, emphasising that “one pod can be used to wash up to 8 kg of clothes.” Unfortunately, the distinct appearance of the pods, coupled with the campaign’s distribution strategy, led to some individuals mistaking them for edible items.


Unlike the Tide pod craze of 2018 which killed at least 10 people in the U.S. who consumed the pods in the social media challenge, those who ingested these laundry pods believed that they were gummies, local media reported. #taiwan #election #2024

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Among those affected, at least one person reportedly consumed the pods thinking they were candies. Two elderly individuals, an 86-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man with the same surname, had to undergo stomach pumping after ingesting the pods.

Hung informed the media that members of the campaign staff would personally visit the three individuals who had been hospitalised after consuming the pods.

This incident in Taiwan bears a striking resemblance to a similar mishap in 2018. Does anyone remember the 2018 Tide Pod challenge? A social media game that enticed individuals to record themselves consuming laundry detergent pods and daring others to follow them? Some even went to the extent of incorporating Tide Pods into elaborate meals before consumption. This resulted in over 37 cases of pod ingestion among teenagers, half of which were intentional.

Medical professional Su Ming-yao, an attending physician at New Taipei Municipal Tucheng Hospital’s Department of Gastroenterology, emphasised the importance of seeking immediate medical advice if laundry pods are ingested, as reported by the Taipei Times.

The unfortunate consequences of the detergent pod distribution highlight the need for caution in campaign promotional strategies, especially when items with potential health risks are involved. While the intention may have been to garner attention and support, the incident has now shifted focus to the well-being of those affected.

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