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What Really Happens When You Mix Pop Rocks and Coke?

Michelle Schrank // Flickr

Written by William Tolan

Rumors about the combination began in 1979, when it was widely believed that a child known as Little Mikey, whose real name is John Gilchrist, exploded after combining the two. The urban legend caused Pop Rocks to be temporarily discontinued during the mid-1980s, according to its website.

The FDA created a separate hotline to assure parents that the candy was harmless, even when combined with Coca-Cola. However, rumors continue to exist about the combination to this day.

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of the television show MythBusters tested the legend in 2003 and determined it was false. In the episode, they poured six cans of soda and six pouches of Pop Rocks into a pig’s stomach. While the stomach grew to three times its original size, it did not explode, and the myth was considered busted.

DeusXFlorida // Flickr
DeusXFlorida // Flickr

Students such as junior communication studies major Hillary Anthony said that if there is any truth to the legend, people would know by now.

“I’m sure someone has tried it by now and if was true, there’d be a report on it,” said Anthony, 25. “There’d be a warning label on the package.”

Loyola chemistry professor Daniel Graham said Pop Rocks are comprised of carbon dioxide.

“The candy processors of Pop Rocks figured out a way to trap extra amounts of carbon dioxide inside sugar,” said Graham. “Consumers of the candy can very well sense the carbon dioxide released when [it] dissolves in one’s mouth. The released gas is no big deal — it just causes a sensation in common with drinking soda, sparkling wine or beer.”

“The released gas causes a rapid volume expansion, which pushes hard against whatever is nearby,” Graham said. “Certain chemical reactions are capable of this, but the carbon dioxide released by Pop Rocks is not the product of a chemical reaction, and it is released in such tiny amounts.”

Graham explained that explosives are specifically defined as materials that release large quantities of gas.

A package of Pop Rocks contains less carbonation than half a can of soda. When the candy comes in contact with moisture, whether it be saliva, milk or Coca-Cola, the candy dissolves. The gas inside the carbon dioxide bubbles is released, which causes the fizzling sounds the candy is often associated with.

For those who still believe the rumors, junior Ad/PR major Brittany Carter said that, based on her own experience, there is no reason to fear.

“It has been a myth for years. My cousins dared me and I wasn’t scared,” said Carter, 23. “It pretty much just popped in my mouth with the soda. It didn’t explode. My stomach is still intact.”

Carter said the sensation was not as extreme as the urban legend makes it out to be.

“If you were to try it right now, you would just be like, ‘Oh, it’s popping,’” Carter said. “It was kind of like popcorn.”

Junior English major Anthony Skillen also said he tested out the myth because of a dare.

“Nothing really happened except that the [Coca-Cola] was really fizzing up when I had the Pop Rocks,” said Skillen, 21. “My stomach hurt for about less than an hour.”

Ingesting both Pop Rocks and soda leads to nothing more than a “hearty, non-life-threatening belch,” according to its website.

“Kids and parents should feel safe,” Graham said.

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