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Peeps: The Easter treat you can’t destroy

A row of Peeps marshmallow candies shaped like baby chicks

In this Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 photo, displayed are Peeps at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(NEXSTAR) — Introduced in 1953, Peeps are the polarizing Easter candy that keep coming back year after year.

A tongue-in-cheek 1999 study at Emory University set out to prove or disprove a pervasive rumor about the candy: that the marshmallow confections cannot be destroyed. 

The study tested the candy under four conditions:

  • Reaction to cold – After being squashed with a hammer, a Peep was placed in a bucket of liquid nitrogen — it was submerged in the -210°C nitrogen for about a minute — the candy was removed and squashed again with a hammer. This time, the candy (now hardened) cracked and broke apart. Conclusion: Not easily broken.
  • Reaction to heat – The Peep was placed in an autoclave (a refrigerator-sized pressure cooker that can kill any living bacteria or fungi) for 15 minutes. The candy was exposed to 10 atmospheres of pressure at 350° Fahrenheit. By the end of the 15 minutes, the Peep softened into a “fluff” — still together, but gooier. Conclusion: Can take the heat.
  • Solubility testing – Four individual Peeps were put into four separate beakers. One beaker containing water, one containing acetone, one containing sulfuric acid and one containing sodium hydroxide. The candies were observed for an hour and at the end, the most dramatic development was that the acetone turned purple as some sugar dissolved. Conclusion: Not easily dissolved.
  • “Nastier solvent” – Dissatisfied with the solubility testing, researchers decided to drop the candy in a meaner chemical concoction. They immersed a Peep into Phenol — a protein-breaking chemical that can cause paralysis or death if swallowed or even put in contact with skin. After an hour, the Peep had mostly dissolved into purple goo. But one part was not easily killed: the chick’s little black eyes were still intact, completely unharmed by the chemical. Conclusion: Peeps are always watching.
  • Low-pressure environments – A Peep was put into a vacuum. Once the air began being sucked out of the container, the candy started to expand to a much larger size. When the vacuum was turned off, however, the Peep lost air and folded in on itself to resemble chewing gum. But it only lost its shape as it retained edibility (researchers ate it afterward). Conclusion: Shapeshifter.

Final conclusion: You decide!

Peeps are owned by the Pennsylvania-based Just Born Inc., which also makes Hot Tamales and Mike and Ike. Despite their association with Easter, Peeps pop up at many holidays, including Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Christmas.


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