Jamie will make some very valid points about Peeps Pepsi (Peepsi), a soda which I can only describe as “bleh.” But actual Peeps are even worse than their soda-based counterpart. These marshmallow candies hide something wicked behind their soulless eyes: Peeps are actually carcinogenic (and they taste disgusting). Some Peeps, including the pink and purple variants, contain a cancer-causing dye: red dye #3 (also known as erythrosine). The most popular color of Peeps doesn’t contain red #3, but Peeps are not good anyways. Peeps are bad.
This dye, which is found in food coloring, printer ink and more, and has already been banned in the European Union “due to scientific studies that have demonstrated significant public health harms, including increased risk of cancer, behavioral issues in children, harm to the reproductive system, and damage to the immune system”. Puzzlingly, this dye is banned in cosmetics due to carcinogenic properties, but allowed in foods and oral drugs, a decision that has frustrated consumer safety groups. It’s been shown to be carcinogenic in animals, but there is no direct evidence for human carcinogenicity.
The dangerous dye is up for a ban in California for the same reasons. That’s not explicitly newsworthy though, as American foods have poison in them all the time. What’s hilarious about this situation is Peeps’ manufacturer’s response. Just Born Quality Confections, the company that produces poisonous candy for sale to millions of unknowing consumers, announced it wouldn’t be making any changes to its manufacturing process following a Consumer Reports callout. They added that “Red #3 is currently an approved colorant for use in candy by the (US Food and Drug Administration),” as if the FDA has never approved anything that has negative health consequences. The company added that Peeps’ ingredients are listed on the package, passing the responsibility to ensure that a food item won’t cause cancer to consumers. Unfortunately, more than half of Americans don’t read the ingredients label on their food.
The inclusion of red #3 in Peeps is a symptom of a larger problem—a lack of regard for consumer health in the United States. Companies market themselves as “healthy alternatives” for including sugarless stevia as a sweetener in their product, claiming that a lower carbohydrate count makes their product better than the sugary alternatives. But stevia causes kidney damage, hormonal issues, gastrointestinal problems and more in those who consume it. These companies put stevia in their products betting on the fact that their consumers won’t care about the negative side effects, knowing well that more than half of them won’t even read the ingredients label in the first place.
But stevia and red #3 are small problems when compared to ingredients that can be found in some of the most popular American foods. Mountain Dew contains a compound that can cause memory loss and impaired balance and coordination (it’s banned in several nations), some milk contains a carcinogenic compound (in other countries the compound is banned) and some bread contains a material that can be found in yoga mats and shoe soles (the compound is banned in several nations). The blatant disregard for consumer safety, with a desire to make a visually appealing and cheap-to-produce product. Don’t eat Peeps, for your own sake.
And now, for a somewhat brief discussion of a somewhat new Peep-related “food” product. For Easter 2023, Peeps once again (yes, they have done this before) collaborated with Pepsi to create a limited edition Peep-flavored Pepsi. Or “Peepsi,” if you will. This drink is allegedly a marshmallow-flavored drink, which is confusing as marshmallow is not inherently a flavor. Marshmallows are made out of sugar, much like cotton candy. If you change the shape of a marshmallow or cotton candy, the newly shaped thing will no longer taste like marshmallow or cotton candy. The two candies fall into a category of dessert I would like to name “texture foods.” I dub them this name because the entire experience is derived from the texture of the food and not the flavor itself—the flavor is sugar.
Peeps has other flavors, including, but not limited to: Sour Watermelon, Cotton Candy (is that not just marshmallow flavor again?), Fruit Punch, Party Cake, Hot Tamales, Kettle Corn, Chocolate Pudding, Root Beer and Sparkly Wild Berry. These are additional flavors that are added on top of the base “Peep” flavor. I argue that the base flavor is sugar flavor, and therefore, Peep Pepsi should just taste like sugar, right? Well, as I was too scared to taste it myself, I turned to the mighty online reviewers on Amazon to see what people think about the drink.
One reviewer says that “it does taste like peeps. Its [sic] a bit creepy. I’m so torn on whether I like it or disgusted by it. So much indecision. So I mixed a little smore whiskey with it and made it truly horrible. Oh well.” Writes Tammy, “My family really enjoyed these little sodas and I put some in the grandkids Easter baskets for a fun surprise. For adults it tastes really good with whiskey. Lol.” (There appears to be multiple reviewers who enjoy Peep Pepsi with whiskey. No explanation has been found justifying why this is the case. The implication here is that people enjoy drinking whiskey with a carbonated soda drink.)
Other, non-whiskey related reviews—“Some people may tell you this is sickeningly sweet. They are wrong. Been a fan of Pepsi & Peeps all my life and have always wanted this to be a thing. Honestly it’s not super sweet. It’s got a very nice aftertaste that doesn’t make the drink taste overly sugary. It’s more like a gently [sic] Marshmallow tatse with a dash of Pepsi. Try it, it’s good” and “Curious as to how it tasted, so I decided to order it. My whole family tried it and no one was able to finish a mini can. The initial taste is butterscotch but the after taste is kinda like a stale peep. Would work great as a gag gift for Easter.” Reviewers who enjoyed the drink also expressed a desire for a diet version of the soda and larger cans.
The Brandeis Hoot’s deputy social media editor Abby Roberts ’24 tried the soda and says that “the drink itself tastes like normal Pepsi but the aftertaste is like I shotgunned marshmallow and sugar crystals.”
After a thorough analysis of Peep Pepsi reviews, it is possible to conclude that, despite mixed opinions about whether the drink actually tastes good or not, the drink does taste like Peeps. Kudos to the Peeps chemical factory workers who managed to turn a texture food (marshmallow) into a flavor that can be put into a soda. Modern science never ceases to amaze.
And if you prefer soda in a Peep shape—rather than Peep in a soda shape—you can also try Dr. Pepper flavored Peeps.