Friday, August 7, 2009

Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks is a carbonated candy with ingredients including sugar, lactose, corn syrup, and flavoring.

The idea of the product was patented by General Foods research chemist William A. Mitchell in 1956. The Pop Rocks candy was first offered to the public in 1975. Around 1983, General Foods stopped selling the candy. Some incorrectly believed that this was because of an urban legend that mixing Pop Rocks with carbonated soda could result in a person's stomach exploding. In fact the candy was withdrawn for reasons largely owing to its success in the marketplace and to its relatively short shelf life. While distribution was initially tightly controlled to ensure product freshness, with its "exploding" popularity, unauthorized redistribution from market to market resulted in out-of-date product reaching consumers, many of whom complained that the candy was not performing as expected.

The candy is made by mixing its ingredients and heating them until they melt, then exposing the mixture to pressurized carbon dioxide gas (about 600 pounds per square inch) and allowing it to cool. The process causes tiny high pressure bubbles to be trapped inside the candy. When placed in the mouth, coming into contact with saliva the candy breaks and dissolves, releasing the carbon dioxide from the tiny atmosphere bubbles, resulting in a popping and sizzling sound and leaving a slight tingling sensation. The bubbles in the candy pieces can be viewed when aided by a microscope.

During the product's heyday, rumors persisted that eating Pop Rocks and drinking cola would cause a person's stomach to explode. The company spent large sums sending out flyers to debunk the rumor. This is, in part, caused by the false assumption that pop rocks contain an acid/base mixture (such as baking soda and vinegar) which produces large volumes of gas when mixed through chewing and saliva. The most famous of these myths involved a child named Mikey from the Life cereal commercials. Mikey was reported to have died after eating a Pop Rocks and cola mixture. The rumor is false and the former child actor who was in the commercials, John Gilchrist, is still alive and well.

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