April 18, 2006 — -- The same year that Jonas Salk discovered a vaccine for polio, a little-known chemist at General Foods stumbled on to what would provide a revolution in mouths across the country.
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William A. Mitchell had a simple hope in 1956 -- make instant soda from a tablet. The soda didn't pan out, but he created a hit. His research led to the invention of Pop Rocks candy.
Twenty years later, the colorful, sugary treat that explodes on your tongue became one of the most-popular candies in America. Packets were found in candy machines and stuffed in lunchboxes.
What makes these candy rocks pop on your tongue, though? The tiny shards of candy include a gasified form of carbon dioxide. When they hit saliva in the mouth, the result is an unmistakable buzz.
As concerns were raised over potential injuries from these small explosions, health officials said the candy was safe, but urban legends about Pop Rocks fatalities still ran wild.
One example involved actor John Gilchrist, who played the finicky child Mikey in the Life cereal ads. As the false story went, Gilchrist mixed Pop Rocks and soda, and met his death.
Today, the makers of Pop Rocks hope the brand can live on as a nostalgia product.