The inspiration for this blog came when a regular caller to my radio show emphatically stated that the outer hard candy shell of M & M's was made from the secretion of the Lac Beetle. Really? I didn't have time to entertain his conversation, at which point I ended it to welcome a guest.

Later on, I looked into the caller's statement and found out some interesting facts. First off, it is an urban legend. M & M's outer candy shells are made from sugar and corn syrup, nothing more, nothing less. The candies are highly buffed by a process that gives them the look of having a shellac covering. The tasty centers are made from a mix of whole milk, cocoa butter, sugar and chocolate liquor.

The most interesting trivia I discovered is that M & M's were originally designed as a treat for soldiers! The U.S. Military included it in their rations because the outer shell prevented the candy from melting in their hands. Melting chocolate was not a trivial matter for a soldier who might have to put down his candy bar and pick up a rifle. Thus the classic logo, "M & M's melt in your mouth, not in your hand."

As for the beetle juice rumor, some candies did use it as a confectioner's glaze, as in original Junior Mints. Remember the sheen on them? Looked like a shiny shellac finish, but not on M & M's. By the way, have you heard the green M & M's are an aphrodisiac? Stay tuned!