Have you ever noticed that 'salt and vinegar' chips, particularly Pringles, leave a burning sensation in your mouth? We wanted to find out what would happen if you ate a whole LOT of these things in one sitting, without drinking anything to dilute whatever chemical is causing the 'burning'. Would we get first degree burns?

O.K., we were bored. But it sounded interesting.

There actually is some vinegar in Pringles' salt & vinegar chips ... or, at least, there's acetic acid, which makes up 5% of white vinegar. But the acid is in powdered form on the chip, along with other chemicals, and probably is the cause of the 'burning'.

A salt and vinegar Pringle. It's impossible to eat just one.

We needed a volunteer to eat a full container of the things (about 75 chips) in one sitting, without drinking anything. We found someone, who, as you can see at the right, does not mind eating salt & vinegar Pringles' potato chips at all. We convinced him to attempt to eat a whole container full of the chips, without so much as a sip of water.

The entire experiment was to take place in the space of one hour, and we predicted that, while the subject's mouth might be a little sore after 75 Pringles, there probably wouldn't be any lasting damage ... at least, to to his mouth. (The calories were another story. More on that later).

Much to our surprise, we discovered that we were wrong! The test subject was in fact unable to eat more than 50-60 salt & vinegar Pringles before complaining vehemently that his mouth was burning up. His mouth was in fact so sore that even after half an hour (still without water) he was unable (or unwilling) to consume a single additional chip.

But wait ... it gets worse! A close examination of the subject's lips showed that in fact there was damage to the skin very similar to a mild burn ... of the sort you might get by sipping a scalding cup of coffee, or getting some really hot filling in a 'pizza pocket'-type food item. Moreover, over the course of the next two days, the subject's lips remained sore, and began to peel as if after a burn.

We concluded that whatever the ingredients are that are in these chips, they actually do cause damage to the skin of the mouth, if they are consumed in a concentrated form ... consistent with a chemical burn.

We paid off the subject with several chocolate bars, hoping he wouldn't sue us, and decided to learn something about the chemicals in salt & vinegar Pringles. The first thing we did was look at the list of ingredients on the side of the tube.

Being fairly alert, we immediately noticed that there were at least three ingredients that were acids. Being in solid form, these chemicals would likely form quite a concentrated acid bath in your mouth as they dissolved in your saliva. Perhaps some measurements of pH would reveal more.

Our next step, then, was to obtain some pH-testing strips, and do a little measuring.
If you're not totally disgusted by the process so far, read on

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