CHOICE finds sour lollies can cause soft tissue damage and enamel erosion

A diagram of the sour lollies acid test CHOICE conducted.
A diagram of the sour lollies acid test CHOICE conducted. Photo: CHOICE

If you grew up in the 90s you'll probably remember Warheads, the painfully sour lolly that made your mouth and eyes water. A new CHOICE report however, reveals that consuming these sour lollies – among others - may in fact have far more serious side-effects.

"We tested the acid levels of sour lollies following Facebook reports that a number of children had received burns to their tongues and gums after consuming the products," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey, in a statement.

Noting that while parents obviously don't expect the lollies to be healthy, he added, "you also don't expect them to harm your child."

Seven-year-old's tongue after consuming Warheads Juniors Extreme Sour last year.
Seven-year-old's tongue after consuming Warheads Juniors Extreme Sour last year.  Photo: Supplied

Twenty different sour lolly products were sent to the lab and analysed for their acidity or total amount of acid present. The lollies' pH, or strength of the acid, was also tested. And, for a refresher, remember: a neutral pH is 7 and, the lower the number, the more acidic a product is.

Here's what they found:

  • Two of the lollies tested, Brain Licker and TNT Mega Sour Grenade, had readings under 2 (pH 1.94 and pH1.83 respectively.)
  • The remaining 18 sour lolly products had a pH of less than 3.

"To put these numbers in context," the CHOICE report notes, "vinegar has a pH of 3, and stomach acid has a pH of 1"

So what are the implications of the results? Godfrey explains, "Sucking and holding highly acidic lollies against your tongue, cheeks or gums for extended periods of time might cause soft tissue damage."

You can see a more detailed breakdown in this diagram here:

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CHOICE testing also uncovered that, along with the potential for tissue damage, a number of popular sour treats fall in the danger zone for tooth enamel erosion. In addition, prolonged contact with teeth, tongue and gums can cause burns, ulcers, bleeding and long-term dental damage.

"Irreversible damage to teeth is a real threat from these products," Godfrey says. "Under acidic conditions tooth enamel can start to dissolve, and the more acid in the mouth, the harder it is for a person's saliva to neutralise its effects and protect teeth."

When it came to their impact on dental health, the following products received particularly dishonourable mentions:

  • TNT Mega Sour Grenade
  • Toxic Waste Hazardously Sour Candy
  • Toxic Waste Sour Smog Balls  
  • Warheads Juniors Extreme Sour

Reflecting on the results, Godfrey notes, "Obviously the best advice is to limit your intake of sugary and highly acidic foods and drinks. At the very least, rinsing with tap water immediately after eating sour lollies will help to neutralise the acids, and minimise the potential for that lolly binge to end on a sour note."

The findings come as last year, a Warheads sour lolly, burned a hole in seven-year-old Lachlan Canak's tongue. His shocked mother Hayley, uploaded a photo of the injury to Facebook as a warning to other parents, writing that she "felt sick" when she first saw the damage the Warheads Juniors Extreme Sour lolly had caused.

Unbelievably, the lollies are deemed appropriate for children aged four and up.

A mother-of-two, Amber, said that recently her son bought some of the same sour lollies with his pocket money. And, without her knowledge, he consumed the entire packet in one night.

The next morning, Amber's son mentioned that the inside of his mouth was feeling a little strange. "I took a look and there was an area of burnt skin about the size of a 10c piece on the inside of his cheek," she said. "I was horrified!"

"Now," Amber noted, "after reading about the damage that sour lollies can do to tooth enamel, we won't be buying them again."

Watch a short video about the CHOICE testing here:

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