Counterfeit Fritos, Cheetos and Oreos laced with THC seized

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Reports of cannabis poisoning among young kids has almost quadrupled in the past five years. Pic: GettyImages
Reports of cannabis poisoning among young kids has almost quadrupled in the past five years. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Cannabis THC Frito Lay Cheetos Oreo

North Carolina law enforcement has seized $170,000 worth of counterfeit snacks that look deceptively like the well-known mega brands, but being infused with THC, could be highly dangerous for children.

In the lead up to Halloween, law enforcement seized a bounty of THC-infused snacks from stores across New Hanover County, which certainly could have been more trick than treat should they have ended up in the hands of kids.

The snacks emulate mega brands like Cheetos, Fritos and Oreos, among others, but are laced with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the compounds in cannabis that provides the ‘high’.

While products containing less than 0.3% THC (on a dry basis) are legal in North Carolina, authorities report they are finding a lot more being sold across the state that do not conform. According to America’s Poison Centers, poisoning by cannabis edibles in children under 12 has increased 700% since 2018.

A dangerous trend

Counterfeit THC snacks
Some of the products seized in North Carolina

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has issued a warning to parents, saying the packaging on some of the products “are deceptive”​ and can easily be confused for the original snack.

“These THC-infused edibles are packaged using counterfeit snack brands that are particularly popular with children and teenagers,”​ Marshall said in a statement.

“This growing trend is dangerous for our communities and it’s important to raise the overall awareness of this issue with parents and all residents around North Carolina.”

“The packaging is meant to look like regular food, candy, chips and other sweets. Many times, the labels feature a cartoon character or other images attractive to children.”

She added, “It’s particularly important if parents have THC-infused products in their homes to lock them away like other medications or cleaning products.”

The THC-infused snacks were seized from tobacco and vape stores as part of dozens of searches across Eastern North Carolina by the New Hanover Anti-Counterfeiting Tast Force, Trademark Law Enforcement agents and local enforcement. A number of weapons and illegal drugs were also seized. Charges have been filed for Criminal Use of a Counterfeit Trademark, along with Allowing Criminal Activity on Premises Holding an ABC Permit.

“I highly suspect these [snacks] are manufactured in another country that doesn’t care about our trademark laws,”​ said Marshall, adding China is believed to be a common source.

“Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. As was the case here, there is oftentimes other dangerous activity associated with counterfeiting, whether it’s guns and illegal drugs. In other cases around the country, it has been associated with organised crime, human trafficking or terrorism.”

Added New Hanover County Sherrif Ed McMahon, “We’re not going to stand by while we have these businesses selling illegal drugs and merchandise in our community.

“More importantly, we’re not going to allow these drugs to get out into our community where they could harm our children.”

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