Sugarless Gummy Bears Are Not Safe for Humans

By River Donaghey


Photos by Meredith Jenks

There has been lots of talk on the internet lately about Haribo sugarfree gummy bears and how they make you make shit like a madman. According to these detailed Amazon reviews, just a handful of the bears can cause an immediate evacuation of the gastrointestinal tract. There are 53 pages of reviews on Amazon, each one topping the last with a story of gummy-fueled diarrhea nightmares. "Gastric exorcism at 30,000 feet," a reviewer named I Like Cheese wrote. "Don't use the bathroom on a Delta flight. That stench is from me, seven years ago."

I'm no avid Amazon shopper or reader of online reviews, but I've scanned my share and have never seen anything close to the kind of in-depth reporting that's found on the Haribo sugarfree gummy bear Amazon reviews page. The metaphors are akin to something John Donne would have written after a particularly stinging shit.

"Gastric exorcism?" "Liquid razorblades?" I wasn't buying it. This whole thing seemed like a stupid internet hoax—an excuse for people to pen elaborate fictions about their somewhat irregular but ultimately harmless gummy bear-induced shits. The reporter in me knew what had to be done. I bought a few pounds of the day-glo bears at a candy store in Manhattan and found myself in the VICE offices late last Saturday night, shoving handfuls in my mouth, determined to find out the truth.

I camped out on a leather couch in the lobby. Leather seemed easiest to hose down if I didn't make it to the bathroom in time. The bears were still cold from being outside and the first few were tough on the jaw. Once they warmed up, the texture was everything we've come to expect from the good people at Haribo. The flavor was amazing, too. Lycasin, the sugar substitute that's supposed to be the source of the colonic unrest, tastes amazing. Splenda and other artificial sugars have nothing on Lycasin, aside from the alleged diarrhea part.

7:25 PM - One of the Amazon reviews mentioned that they had only eaten 20 gummies before their bowels exploded, so I figured that would be a safe threshold dose. I hooked down a handful. The first half hour felt close to that anxious period right after dropping acid, when you're killing time and waiting for it to hit.

I snuck a few more bears as I waited. They really are tasty.

8 PM - A half hour in, I started feeling weird. I hadn't eaten gummy bears since I was 12, and I figured that I would have felt the same after eating any fist-sized glob of gelatin. Meredith—the photographer who encouraged VICE to test these gummies in the first place (thanks, Meredith!)—brought over a trash bin. I started spitting out thick, red loogies. A few times I felt like yakking up the gummy bears, but I forced myself to keep them inside. If those bears wanted out, they'd have to find another way.

8:21 PM - Something felt wrong. Very wrong. But the bears were too good to quit. I kept eating. 

8:40 PM - Gassy. An adamant voice in the back of my head kept telling me, "Slow and steady. Push things out too fast and you might let more slip than you want to."

9:02 PM - Shooting pains had begun. But after two hours of eating the bears, I still hadn't made a mad dash to the bathroom. Maybe my theory was right. Maybe all the Haribo diarrhea emergency stories were exaggerated internet fiction. Another bonsai kitten hoax.

How mistaken I was!

9:15 PM - There's a movie called Devil's Due in theaters right now. In its trailer, there's a quick shot of a woman napping on a couch as something starts to force its way up from inside her belly. I felt like this was happening to me. The bears were gnawing at my stomach lining. I started to think this dumb stunt could actually cause serious damage.

9:30 PM - The office's night security guard walked by a few times to check on me and Meredith. By this point, I'd lost my ability to communicate clearly. My sentences came out fractured and punctuated with groans. The guard didn't seem particularly surprised that this was happening.

10:12 PM - A friend of mine asked if he could swing by and check on me. I stood up for the first time in an hour and gravity started to take hold. I just about let loose of everything I had inside me as I opened the door to let him in the office.

10:26 PM - The beginning of the end. The bears opened my lower pod bay door and a gummy hell sprang forth. I made it to the toilet, just barely. My watery shit looked like a blend of bile and egg flower soup.

With all attempts at modesty destroyed, I allowed Meredith and my buddy to follow me into the bathroom. He shied away, but Meredith came in like a pro, knowing what kind of massacre she was walking into.

10:47 PM - Exhausted and drained of all liquid, I hobbled home, but the need to shit out all my water weight hadn't gone away. It took every ounce of my being not to shit my pants on the corner of Manhattan and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. My rectum put on a star performance.

11:00 PM - I crawled into bed, shaking and dehydrated. At least I got to the bottom of the Haribo mystery. I ate the bears so the world wouldn't have to. I fell asleep with a noble sense of self-importance—and the faint smell of fruity shit clinging to my clothes.

11:49 PM - I dreamed a gentle dream. A well-groomed older gentleman led me by the hand down a long corridor. "The bathroom is right this way, sir," he said. "We keep this one for only our most important guests."

He stopped and pushed open a door, revealing the most magnificent and ornate bathroom I had ever seen. He smiled and nodded and quietly shut the door behind me, leaving me alone, and—

11:51 PM - I tore myself out of bed and ran toward the toilet, vomiting out of my asshole. Whatever happened in the VICE office was nothing compared to this. I dug my iPhone from the pocket of the pants bunched around my ankles, and fired up the voice recorder.

Be warned: the audio I caught is not for the faint of heart.

3:10 AM - I crawled back into bed after shitting for hours. I was a shell of a man, fingers pruned from dehydration. The wreckage I left in the bathroom was too much for my weak body to deal with. I left it for a roommate to clean up.

6 AM - My girlfriend woke up to get ready for work. She wandered into the bathroom, took one look inside, and stomped back to our bed. "We're never getting our security deposit back," she said.

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