Chemistry Blog

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Sep 12

A Tooth in an M&M?

by azmanam | Categories: science news | (62082 Views)

M&m2A Raleigh, NC, woman bit into a peanut M&M… and something didn’t feel right.  Instead of a peanut, she found… this (Via the Raleigh News & Observer):

[UPDATE: Photo removed at the request of the N&O.  Click the link above to see the image.]

What would you do?

She called Mars (the candy maker), who quickly sent her coupons and an envelope for her to send the mystery object to Mars labs for testing.

Uh…  no.   She actually wanted to know what the object was, and didn’t trust Mars to be forthcoming with her results.

After calling a number of state departments and university labs, the News & Observer got involved as part of their Troubleshooter program.  Most state labs and departments either didn’t have the resources or wouldn’t do the testing, or referred her to private labs (costing upwards of $1000 dollars for testing).

Finally, the N&O talked to the Agriculture Department’s Food and Drug Protection Division.

The director decided to make an exception – as long as the woman agreed not to sue – and got to work.

What tests would you run?  In short order, the director found out what the object was.  Was it tooth?  Bone?  Something else?  If you were the director, what would you do to find out what was in the M&M?  Find out below the jump.

Well, before it got to the Department, the NC Museum of Natural Science said it wasn’t bone (although they didn’t tell us how they found that out).  In fact, the only test they really give any detail on is, of course, the one that gave a positive result.  The sample gave a positive result to the iodine/starch test.  That means the material is a carbohydrate.  Probably sugar.

An External Affairs Manager at Mars says that, based on the test results, an unfortunately shaped lump of sugar made it through the various QC examinations to be treated like a peanut and get coated in chocolate and colorful candy shell.

So don’t worry – no Mars line worker is missing a tooth.  M&Ms are safe to eat again.  Did you think of iodine/starch?  If so, you win!  And by win, I mean you don’t actually win anything.  But there might be a job waiting for you at the NC Agriculture Department’s Food and Drug Protection Division.

And the woman?  Even though the lump turned out to be innocuous… she’s still not eating M&Ms.

9 comments

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  1. tim

    how did they know that the sugar didn’t come from the chocolate/candy shell?

  2. mitch

    The first test I would have done was an EDAX. That would have eliminated both calcium and phosphate off the bat and I wouldn’t need to trust a museum curator.

    1. psi*psi

      or PIXE

    2. Noel

      ICP AES?

      1. mitch

        True, ICP-AES works too. But SEM/EDAX lets you get a pretty picture.

  3. André Moreau

    In Ontario Canada, I found what looks like a broken tooth inside an M&M Peanut flavored candy. That was today September 12, 2009.
    A

  4. John Spevacek

    IR would also be go if EDX isn’t available. Everyone has IR. Even poking at it with knife (something that in all honesty I would expect everyone here to do if they really had the sample) would show the fragible nature of the lump.

  5. shauna

    i found a tooth in my peanut m&m yesterday any advice on what to do?

    1. Mitch

      See a dentist?

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