Day 114: CandyShock

originally published April 23, 2012

Sometimes controversy is a good idea. A racy ad gets people talking, a scandalous drunken escapade can bring a ton of publicity. Sometimes you can beat up your girlfriend and people will still buy your music and treat you like something other than the piece of human garbage everyone knows deep down you are.

Then there are some controversies that just scream “Bad Planning.” Take, for example, the brain-queef behind Hippy Sippy candy.

In an attempt to cash in on the drug culture of the late 1960s, some clever confectioner decided to package a bunch of multicolored candies in a syringe-like container with the youth-like proclamation “I’ll Try Anything” on the outside. I’m not sure if the intent here was to provide a viable alternative to mind-altering substances (“All the fun of getting high, but candy!”), or simply a catapult-lob of controversy for some quick cash.

This is perhaps a more appropriate way of selling sugar through shock value. Kids love eating ridiculous foods, and advertising a sweet treat as pretend radioactive poison is a great trick. Kids used to dare each other to eat bugs, why not cash in on that urge to shove inappropriate things in one’s mouth?

The candy’s container included a challenge, for kids to compete to see how long they can keep the candy in their mouths without swallowing. Smart, because this encourages the friend to buy some as well, and turns the snack into a sport. Not so smart for those who bought the American product in 2011, shortly before it was recalled due to high amounts of lead. There’s a delightful piece of irony for you to chew on.

Designed to appear like a stick of deodorant, yet to provide a realistic simulation of gliding one’s tongue along the inside of another person’s skull, Brain Licker is another sour treat. The lickable portion is actually just a ball-shaped dispenser of candied liquid, so the kids will have to use their imaginations a little if they want the real brain licking experience (and what kid doesn’t?).

The real flirtation with danger comes in the form of small cuts, burns and blisters which can appear in one’s mouth if they consume too much Brain Licker juice. How much is too much, no one knows. The liquid is roughly as acidic as lemon juice, so it’s a question of how sensitive your child’s mouth is. My advice is to force-feed them Brain Licker, toughen them up.

I personally had a bad blister experience when I was a kid, courtesy of these spicy cinnamon toothpicks. I’m not sure how many packs I went through, trying to establish my bad-ass image as a young rebel who doesn’t care what the world wants me to use toothpicks for. It hurt like liquid sandpaper, but it made my palate stronger, and prepared me for the intricate flavor of bacon-flavored beer.

Percy Pig, a gelatin candy that has become a sensation around the UK, has no painful or life-threatening controversy surrounding it. Apparently it’s simply quite delicious. And it also contains actual pig.

It was revealed that the candies used pork gelatin rather than pectin, the more common candy gelatinizer. I suppose this adds an air of authenticity to the porcine procurement, however it might be a tad too literal for some candy munchers. As of 2011, a vegetarian variety of Percy appeared on store shelves, allowing consumers the choice of whether or not they want traces of meat in their sugary snack. That, my friends, is capitalism at work.

Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls are not an inappropriate proposition in the back room of a family get-together, but rather a British hard candy, containing only pure cane sugar, peppermint oil, and cream of tartar, which incidentally can be mixed with white vinegar to provide an excellent solution for polishing your brass doorknobs.

Maybe candy controversy is best when it explodes. And nothing explodes quite like Pop Rocks. In fact, if you eat a bunch of them, then shoot back a fresh, bubbly Coke, your stomach will explode. This was the surprising end for the kid who played Mikey on those old Life Cereal commercials.

Okay, that’s a lie. This is one of those classic urban legends that justify the existence of The exploding-stomach rumor dates back to 1979. The FDA set up a hotline specifically to reassure parents that their children will not burst if they consume the candy.

The Mythbusters put this to the test, feeding an increasing supply of Pop Rocks and soda into a pig’s stomach to see how much it would take to make it burst in a bloody, fizzy cloud of gross. I don’t want to give away the ending, but yeah, this rumor is completely crap.

These are not candies you can purchase in those magical stores in California that cater to legal medicinal marijuana users. Potheads candy is just that – candy. Sure, it’s shaped like marijuana, and it has “LEGALIZE” stamped all over the packaging, but Kalan LP, the candy’s manufacturer in Lansdowne, PA, insists they are not trying to stir up controversy, nor are they taking a political position on drug-law reformation. They’re just feeding the market, and right now there’s a market for drug-themed candy.

Parental controversy like this existed in my childhood too, against candy cigarettes. But while those treats offered a realistic simulation experience, even allowing a powdery puff of ‘smoke’ to emerge for the skilled imbiber, I don’t think sucking on a sugary leaf-looking snack is going to nudge kids toward illicit activities.

Maybe Lazy Cakes, the “Relaxation Brownies” are a bit closer to the actual experience of drug consumption. These don’t, of course, contain any illegal substances, but they do contain melatonin, so if your kid eats a lot of these, don’t expect him to try out for the track team, or possibly even get up from the couch very frequently.

For that kid, picking up a counterbalancing supply of Revive Energy Mints might be a good idea. They’re sugar-free (though packed with guarana, caffeine, and everything that makes energy drinks wholesome and chemistry-affecting), and artificially invigorating.

I don’t mind a little controversy in my candy. If you want to live life on the edge without actually living your life on the edge, maybe you can convince yourself that these snacks will make you an edgy daredevil.

Just stay away from those toothpicks. It ain’t worth it, trust me.

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