Why Are Raspberry-Flavored Items Blue?

With some notable exceptions like blueberries, bluefish and blue corn, the color blue is rare among edible plants and animals. Food scientists have always had a hard time finding reliable natural sources for blue food colorings, and for a long time, even dyed blue foods were hard to come by. In the mid-20th century, though, the humble ice pop changed all that and opened the gates for an army of brave blue treats.

Inexpensive ice pops like Otter Pops and Fla-Vor-Ice — made from water, corn syrup, and a little fruit juice and packed in thin plastic tubes — became a staple of working- and middle-class American freezers in the 1960s and 70s. They came in a variety of flavors and the number of red fruits that ice pop makers had to contend with often led to confusion. Cherry, strawberry, raspberry and watermelon all lend themselves to the color red, and if any two of those flavors were in the same pack, they had to be distinguishable by color.

At first, the problem was solved by making cherry and strawberry slightly different shades of red. Watermelon pops were often made a lighter pink-red, and raspberry ones a dark wine-red. Scientists soon found out, though, that the most inexpensive and widely available dye for this deep red, Amaranth (aka E123 and FD&C Red No. 2), provoked severe reactions, and was deemed a possible carcinogen and banned by the FDA.

What Now, Raspberry?

The ice pop barons had access to blue dye, but no flavors that needed it. It was just an extra color sitting around, so they started to marry the flavor of Rubus leucodermis, known as the “Whitebark Raspberry” or “Blue Raspberry,” with the bright blue synthetic food coloring Brilliant Blue (FD&C Blue No. 1). The dye’s color wasn’t anywhere close to the real-life color of the fruit, but it solved the raspberry conundrum and led to blue-tongued kids across the country.

Fake Blue Raspberries Image: Jaroslaw Grudzinski / Shutterstock.com

Why Are There 10 Hot Dogs to a Pack But Only 8 Buns?

tacar/iStock via Getty Images
tacar/iStock via Getty Images

Watching competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut cram dozens of hot dogs down his throat would make anyone crave a grilled log of processed meat this summer. But shopping for hot dogs can be a confusing experience. The dogs are typically sold in packs of 10, but the buns are sold in packs of eight. What's behind this strange dog and bun inequality?

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council—yes, there is a National Hot Dog and Sausage Council—there’s a good reason for the discrepancy. For starters, distributors of hot dogs are almost always different from manufacturers of baked goods like rolls. The hot dogs are sold in packs of 10 because producers of meat (or meat-like) products selected that quantity when hot dogs started to sell at retail grocery stores in the 1940s. Oscar Mayer, which led the charge into direct-to-consumer hot dog packaging, sold hot dogs by the pound in accordance with how meat is typically priced. Having 10 dogs that weighed 1.6 ounces each seemed like the ideal distribution of weight.

Bakeries, meanwhile, have standards of their own. Buns and sandwich rolls are usually sold eight to a pack because the baking trays for the elongated buns are typically sized to fit that number. Two sets of four buns come off the tray, which is the reason why buns are often still attached to one another when you open a bag.

These standards were created independently of one another: Bakeries weren’t too preoccupied with hot dogs when they were settling on a four-roll tray standard, and hot dog manufacturers weren’t thinking about how difficult it would be for bakeries to break from their conveyor system to offer 10 buns to a pack.

It can be frustrating if you buy just one or two packages of each, but if you’re hosting a big enough party, the uneven number doesn’t matter. You just need to buy five packages of buns and four packages of hot dogs to have 40 matching pairs. No complicated calculations required.

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When Are the Dog Days of Summer?

Dorottya_Mathe/iStock via Getty Images
Dorottya_Mathe/iStock via Getty Images

The official “dog days” of summer begin on July 3 and end on August 11. So how did this time frame earn its canine nickname? It turns out the phrase has nothing to do with the poor pooches who are forever seeking shade in the July heat, and everything to do with the nighttime sky.

Sirius, the Dog Star, is the brightest star in the sky. The ancient Greeks noticed that in the summer months, Sirius rose and set with the Sun, and they theorized that it was the bright, glowing Dog Star that was adding extra heat to the Earth in July and August.

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