Mountain Dew Mice Experiment Begins!

I told you I was serious.

Yesterday I posted a quick post about doing experiments with mice after reading Pepsi’s explanation about why a mouse could not have been found in a can of Mountain Dew.

Apparently, a man from Illinois allegedly grabbed a can of Mountain Dew from a vending machine, opened it, drank, and then became violently ill.

He claims to have poured the mountain dew into a Styrofoam cup, and upon doing so, a mouse plopped out of the can.

Pepsi claims this could not have happened, as the acid in Mountain Dew would have dissolved a mouse.

I thought: “Experiment time!”,  went to the store and procured 12 mice.

WARNING: Tiny clickable thumbnails of dead mice in jars below the fold. The thumbnails are pretty safe, even if you’re squeamish about dead mice.


Click the images to see them full size and uncropped.



I decided that not only did I want to put mice in Mountain Dew to see if they would dissolve, but I also wanted to have controls. Mostly, this is because a lot of people seem to extrapolate that if Mountain Dew can dissolve mice, it must be dangerous. If plain water or lemon juice does the same thing, then we can reject the claim, “Mountain Dew dissolves mice, therefore Mountain Dew is dangerous” (It’s probably still not good for you, but I love it, so sue me.)

Since I am unsure of the size of the mouse allegedly found in the Mountain Dew can (the reports claim the man poured the mouse out of the can, which means the mouse must have necessarily fit through the mouth of the can, unless by “poured out” he meant, “cut the can open and dumped out”) I picked up two sizes of mice – little baby pinkie mice which would fit through the mouth of a can, and adult mice. I purchased these mice frozen, prekilled, from a local pet store.

I purchased six of each size mouse for each of six different experimental environments for a total of 12 jars:

1. Control mouse: no liquid, just a mouse in a sealed jar.

2. Water mouse: Mouse in plain tap water.

3. Lemon mouse: Mouse with water + lemon juice.

4. Lemonade mouse: Mouse with water + lemon juice + the same amount of sugar in grams as found in Mountain Dew.

5. Corn syrup mouse: Mouse with water + lemon juice + the same amount of corn syrup in grams as found in Mountain Dew. (a reader suggestion, thanks Kate from Iowa!)

6. Mountain Dew mouse: Obvious.

Unfortunately, my PH meter is missing a part, and the PH testing kit I picked up with the mice only measured PH from 6.0 to 8.0, which is way too basic. So, I just picked an amount of lemon juice that seemed reasonable (about 1/4 mason jar full) I can still get a proper PH testing kit to test the PH of the mice later, though.

I filled all of the jars such that hardly any air remained at the top, except for the control mice with no liquid at all. I gave them all a good shake for good measure, especially the sugar/corn syrup ones, to dissolve the sugar.

Obviously, this experiment is for fun and NOT rigorous. My study has many limitations. This is “scientific” in the same way just about any experiment in your kitchen might be. It’s not blinded. The mice aren’t in aluminum cans. The Dew is not freshly bottled, etc.

I am working on a video of the setup process for Youtube, so stay tuned, it will go up whenever I finish editing.


Learn more about Christina and follow her @ziztur.

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  • JT Eberhard

    So strangely excited to see how this turns out! Go Christina!

  • matt

    did similar experiment when i was 11 but i used a slice of bologna instead of a dead mouse

    the entire slice of bologna was dissolved by the coca cola entirely within one hour

    imagine what it does to your stomach or over time the enamel on your teeth!

    put an egg in a glass of vinegar and it will dissolve the shell lol

    • GazeboNinja

      1) You don’t hold a mouthful of coca cola for an hour at a time. Sugary starches like potato chips are worse for your teeth because they stick and therefore stick around.

      2) The hydrochloric acid in your stomach is waaay more corrosive than coke.

  • BaisBlackfingers

    Too late for suggestions? If you’re amenable to altering your protocol at this point, you should protect them from the light (aluminum foil around each jar). Light can change chemistry pretty dramatically, and a soda can would be a pretty effective light barrier.

    • Christina

      Oh, I should mention that we stuck them in my basement and covered all the jars with a heavy blanket, to protect from light. I also thought about covering each in aluminum foil, so good suggestion!

  • ShavenYak

    I wonder if the cellular damage from freezing will make the frozen mouse dissolve more easily than a freshly drowned mouse?

    Also, matt: I wouldn’t worry about your stomach. It’s pretty normal for it to contain acid that can dissolve a piece of meat in an hour. After all, that’s precisely how it does its job. Your teeth aren’t in contact with the acid for very long; they are probably more at risk from the sugar, which sticks to them. You can help protect them by using a straw.

  • Yui Daoren

    NO matter the other results, we can now refer to the mouse-enhanced soda now as “Mountain Eww”.

  • Pteryxx

    …Lemonade Mouse is my new mascot.

  • The Lorax

    Nice experiment. I could suggest doing two trials of each, as well as testing other colas (diet colas, Coca Cola is well known for dissolving stuff, et cetera) as well as trying to localize the key ingredients of cola and use them in proportion (the Mythbusters did this for the Mentos and Cola myth). Of course, going overboard is always a factor.

    I’d also be interested in how long it takes for something to happen. For example, if the mouse does dissolve, how long does it take to skeletonize, or does it? We have no idea how long that can was sitting where it was sitting; if a small, pourable mouse dissolves in a day or less, but the can has been out of the factory, en route to a distributor, sitting in a warehouse, delivered to the vending machine, and remained in stock for a week or more, that would mean it couldn’t have happened.

    Also, I’d like to know how they produce the cans themselves. If they produce the can in the same place they fill it with cola, then it would be all but impossible for a mouse to sneak in there, while the can was active on the factory line.

    … maybe I’m reading too much Detective Conan…

  • Kate from Iowa

    I have to admit the pictures freaked me out a little when I couldn’t find the Mountain Dew mouse and pinkie in them. Then I remembered “der….carbonation, idiot!”

  • Christina

    Yup – they floated to the top, owing to carbonation.

  • jamessweet

    imagine what it does to your stomach or over time the enamel on your teeth!

    A point on this: The reason that happens is because of the concentration of phosphoric acid. The thing with that, though, as that as soon as you dilute it in any amount of other liquid, the acidic property is basically gone.

    This is not going to protect your teeth, but your stomach is in no danger. The Coke will be diluted almost immediately, and the resulting solution will not be particularly acidic at all.

    The reason I know about this is because this property is exploited by homebrewers when using the no-rinse sanitizer called “StarSan”. StarSan comes as a highly concentrated phosphoric acid solution, which you dilute down immensely (something like 1 1/2 oz StarSan in 5 gal water IIRC from the last time I made a batch!). Then you take all your equipment than needs to be sanitized and either immerse it in or spray it with the diluted mixture. After 30 seconds or so, the vast majority of baddies that might be living on it will be dead from the strong acid solution. Now here comes the cool part: You don’t need to rinse it off, at all! As soon as the StarSan residue left on your equipment comes in contact with any non-trivial amount of wort (that’s the unfermented beer) it essentially becomes water. After the second dilution (this time in the wort) the concentration of phosphoric acid is so trivial that it doesn’t affect the pH, or the flavor, whatsoever. The yeast thrives, and the finished beer is unaffected.

    • jamessweet

      Oh, and BTW, I know of a guy who drank a shot glass full of (properly diluted!) StarSan to prove the point that it’s totally safe. I guarantee that it’s more acidic than Coca-Cola, and he suffered no ill effects, not even a stomach ache. As soon as it hits the rest of the contents of your stomach, it dilutes down to the point where it is totally harmless.

    • Mike

      Nitpick: I agree that the acid gets diluted away to basically nothing when the few drips left on your equipment is mixed with gallons of wort, and there’s not enough to harm yeast. But I don’t think that’s anything special about phosphoric acid, and I don’t think that’s what happens when you drink shots of the stuff anyway. Stomachs don’t contain lots of water to dilute it, they’re too small. Stomachs are just sturdy. :) And right below the stomach, in the duodenum, acids get neutralized by basic secretions from the pancreas.

      • jamessweet

        I agree it’s (probably) nothing special about phosphoric acid — I don’t know enough about chemistry to say for sure, so I kind of intentionally tried to be ambiguous about that in my comment :) I know it’s true for phosphoric acid, because I’ve used StarSan, but I don’t see why that would be a special property of that particular acid. Seems like that would be the case for most any solution with a high acidity but a low alkalinity.

        As to diluting in the stomach, I guess I don’t know. I would think there’d be at least some non-trivial amount of liquid in there… but I guess I don’t know.

        • BaisBlackfingers

          Well, there is alot that is special about phosphoric acid (it can give off up to 3 protons per molecule and it forms the links between ribonucleosides in your DNA/RNA- so cool!), but nothing particularly interesting from the standpoint of being diluted. If you want a bar-napkin calculation of what dilution will do to the pH of a strong acid, a good (simplified) estimate is that every 1:10 dilution should raise your pH by 1 unit (or drop it if you’re diluting a strong base). So if you have 10 ml of acid at pH 0, figure 10 liters of water if you want it raised to pH 3.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            I knew how to calculate the pH of buffer solutions for about a week. Fortunately for me, that week corresponded in time with my final exam in Chemistry A01.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            Well, there is alot that is special about phosphoric acid (it can give off up to 3 protons per molecule and it forms the links between ribonucleosides in your DNA/RNA- so cool!)

            This is why phosphorus is an important ingredient/food for life (as we know it). This is why, for example, environmentally conscious regions require phosphate-free detergent, because lots of phosphate in the waste stream means lots of algal growth, which chokes the streams, etc.

  • jamessweet

    My prediction: The lemon juice, lemonade, and Mountain Dew mice dissolve, and the controls will rapidly become truly vomit-inducing.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Mostly, this is because a lot of people seem to extrapolate that if Mountain Dew can dissolve mice, it must be dangerous.

    This sounds like people who do not know that their own stomach churns out hydrochloric acid. Wikipedia sez

    Gastric acid is one of the main secretions of the stomach. It consists mainly of hydrochloric acid and acidifies the stomach content to a pH of 1 to 2.

    Meanwhile, the ‘Dew will contain lots of phosphoric acid. It also contains carbonic acid, some of which is dissipated as carbon dioxide when you pop the top. The lemon juice will be a mix, with more citric acid.
    This sounds like a fun experiment.

    One detail I am wondering about is temperature. How warm is the ‘Dew during the canning process? A higher temp would speed up the chemistry.

    • BaisBlackfingers

      That’s a really good point on the temperature, but canning at a higher temp might not speed up the reaction- higher temperature will also reduce the solubility of CO2, which will reduce the total acid concentration. Complicated and interesting variable.

    • Mike

      Meanwhile, the ‘Dew will contain lots of phosphoric acid.

      Actually, just looking at ingredients, phosphoric acid is only used in colas. Mountain Dew appears to be chock full of citric acid. So the comparison to lemon juice is not totally out to lunch.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Lunch? You just had to go there.

  • aspidoscelis

    Waste of good snake-food. :-)

    • rukymoss

      The resulting solutions can be fed to snakes afterward–all the goodies will still be in them, plus the delicious sugar, etc. Funny, now that I’m picturing this, it seems grosser than just plain dead mice…

      • aspidoscelis

        Snakes aren’t really set up to ingest semi-solid foods.

        On a similarly-disgusting note, if you’re ever really, really bored find out what happens if you put a frozen mouse in the microwave.

    • Robert B

      It’s not like we are running out of mice or anoles.

  • Mike

    All this talk of acids dissolving teeth and stomach acid has reminded me of a youtube clip. I had never realized how much damage the repeated vomiting from bulimia could do to a person’s teeth:

    Bulemia damage to teeth

  • Steph

    This experiment is amazing. Nothing useful to add, but I should note that ‘Lemonade Mouse’ is my new favorite hypothetical band name.

  • Egaeus

    My prediction is that at least one jar will explode with rotten mousy…um…goodness….

  • King of New Hampshire

    I wouldn’t bother taking the pH after the experiment if you didn’t take it before hand. The action of bacteria that have been undoubtedly introduced with the mouse (both on the skin and in the mouse’s guts) adjust the pH up or down. In fact, the degree of adjustment can help find what species of bacteria was present. If it’s dominated by sugar fermenters, you get acidic, protein rippers, basic. Some bacteria produce very stable acids, some go neutral rather quickly. The lemon juice has vitamin C, for instance, which is loved by deaminating bacteria which will counter-intuitively raise your pH into basic.

    Ideally, you should have “canned” the mice. The bottling plant should have FDA regulations on how they sterilize their product and it’s be best to follow that. I just fear a false positive, as bacteria can devour a mouse in a sugar rich solution in just a few days, if that long. Then you prove Pepsi right, even though it means their product is even less safe than if it had one mouse can out of, what, a million? ten million? The controls should help sort that out, though.

  • Joe t

    You are just all sorts of awesome aren’t you? Anxiously awaiting your results.

  • stubby

    I predict that after two weeks the mountain dew mouse will be chewing snuff and wearing a Dale Earnhardt jacket.

  • NotAProphet

    Hey Christina, had you considered taking photos at regular intervals to combine into a ‘stop motion’ type video showing the process in action?

  • Cyberguy

    After the mice have dissolved, can you report back on which mixture tasted the best? Thanks.

  • LadyBlack

    Dissolved mouse cocktail, anyone?

    And now it’s time for lunch…..

  • Pen

    Darn it, I will be the first to say ‘yuck’ if I have to! OK, carry on now… it’s not like I haven’t seen worse things…

  • Richard

    For science!

  • freemage

    Okay, the experiment is awesome, but I do have one further suggestion if it’s not too late–another jar (or pair, since two sizes of mice) with seltzer-water. In particular, I’m curious about the comparison between seltzer and plain water–if the physical act of carbonation has any effect on the dissolving properties of the liquid.

  • Surgoshan

    Your control mice: I’m predicting they’ll swell up, burst, and then deliquesce (turn into goo). Whatever you do, don’t open those jars! They will smell like the devil’s own santorum!

  • Ben P

    FYI – it might be a while. The court documents in the case suggest that the can of mountain dew sat for 17 months between the factory and whenever it came out of the vending machine.

  • F

    Pepsi claims this could not have happened, as the acid in Mountain Dew would have dissolved a mouse.

    That would be more disgusting and far worse.

  • Calla

    I don’t know if this has already been said (comments were tl;dr), but this has already been proven. It’s on Snopes dated to 2003: