Another unlucky episode for Lucky Charms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week said it is investigating reports that thousands of people have become ill after eating Lucky Charms, the sugary toasted oat cereal flecked with colorful marshmallow pieces and marketed by product mascot “Lucky the Leprechaun” as “magically delicious.”

Lucky tbe Leprechaun

More than 4,500 people have submitted reports to iwaspoisoned.com website, where consumers post about illnesses that they suspect are related to food products. The F.D.A. said it has received more than 100 submissions related to Lucky Charms through its own reporting system. Alleged symptoms include bouts of diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting after consumption.

So, are the cereal company ingredients gastronomically malicious, or are these online complaints materially suspicious? We’ll have to wait to find out. But this isn’t the first time that Lucky the Leprechaun has been cast in unflattering light.

James Edward O’Keefe began his career as a right-wing political activist and provocateur as a Rutgers University student who complained that Lucky Charms were offensive to Irish Americans. O’Keefe later founded Project Veritas, which uses hidden videos and deceptive editing to attack and mock mainstream media and liberal groups. The Lucky Charms video is easy to find, for those inclined, but I’m not going to link to it.

Last year, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield, in an on-air complaint about Kellogg’s new “Together with Pride” cereal pitched to the LGBTQ community, commented: “I think General Mills has a gay leprechaun, right?…He wears high heels shoes, prances around in tights – leads me to believe, probably, that little Lucky Charm leprechaun might be gay.”

And in a review of the Netflix series “Cooking with Paris” (Hilton), Ed Power of the The Irish Times noted:

The action opens with Hilton in a Los Angeles supermarket, eyeballing a leprechaun. She is holding a box of Lucky Charms, the popular cereal and hate crime against Irish people.

But a three-year-old Reddit post that asked, “How do people in Ireland feel about Luck Charms cereal?” elicited only five replies. The verdict: ambivalence.

Nearly 60 years old

Lucky Charms debuted in 1964 with its signature “green clovers, pink hearts, orange stars and yellow moons” marshmallow pieces, according to General Mills’ online product history, dated March 17, 2014, no less, the 50th anniversary. The Lucky character has had several makeovers, but is consistently green-clad with a four-leaf clover sprig in his top hat atop red hair and big buckle shoes. There’s not likely any confusion with St. Patrick holding up a shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity. Lucky was briefly replaced in 1975 by “Waldo the Wizard”.

The General Mills website says nothing of the somewhat endogenous-looking Lucky’s gender, sexual orientation, or nationality. There’s not a word about Ireland or the Irish in the writeup. According to Wikipedia, early television advertising for the cereal was “accompanied by a light instrumental ‘Irish’ tune.” No word, either, on any familial relation to the Notre Dame University “Fighting Irish” mascot, which dates to 1927.

The Lucky Charms cereal box says the magic clovers “turn milk green.” That sure would make me sick.