Eating candy is pretty much a no-brainer. You just unwrap it, pop it in your mouth, and enjoy. There is another step when it comes to Pop Rocks, thanks to chemist William A Mitchell. After you put the small pieces of candy in your mouth, they begin to pop and sizzle before they break down into a gelatinous mass that eventually melts into nothingness. It is one of the most unusual experiences, which has led to its popularity. Although many people enjoy it, very few people know why it happens.
The answer is fairly straightforward. It’s the same thing that gives carbonated beverages their fizz: carbon dioxide. Although it is commonly found in soda, beer, and other carbonated drinks, it is not often found in solid food. Mitchell was doing some experimenting in the late 1950s to see if he could make an instant soda tablet by creating a candy with CO2 baked inside. The idea wasn’t very popular but it did help to get Pop Rocks started.
You will find many of the same ingredients in Pop Rocks that you will find in other candies, including sugar, lactose, corn syrup, and flavoring. After all of the ingredients are melted together and boiled, the pressurized CO2 is added to the mix. Bubbles of the gas are trapped inside of the candy mixture as it hardens, resulting in a pressure of up to 600 psi. To give you some perspective, a champagne bottle has about 90 PSI inside.
Holding Pop Rocks in your hand will not alert you to the special ingredient, you have to taste them. When you pop them in your mouth, your saliva begins to dissolve the sugar slowly, and when it hits an air pocket, it bursts on your tongue, creating a very unique effect. The carbon dioxide at 600 psi comes in contact with the 15 psi air that is in your mouth, resulting in an audible and physically noticeable crack. That is why you can hear Pop Rocks, even when somebody near you is eating them.
At this point, you’re probably wondering if Pop Rocks can cause any damage to your health. There may be some reports floating around according to parents or children, but no Pop Rocks deaths have ever been reported, even when mixing Pop Rocks with Coke.