Is It Okay To Eat 50 Year Old Cough Drops?

So after my post about the disappearance of Pine Bros. cough drops, Freckles discovered there was an eBay auction offering up one unopened box of the honey-flavored variety. The rub being that they were from a production run in the 1950s.

I placed a bid of $6, won the auction, and my 50-year-old box of cough drops is now en route. So the question is: what is the shelf life on an item like this and are they safe to eat? If yes, I will eat them. If no, I will just keep them as memorabilia.

Any scientists out there in the audience? What happens to honey and glycerin over the course of 50 years? I have actually heard that honey is the only food in the world that never spoils.

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80 Responses:

  1. ian says:

    I just ran over the history of you and Pine Brothers Cough Drops with a co-worker. She is the corporate archivist at our firm, so she enjoys an affinity with history. Especially the history of branding and packaging, so, not only did she recall Pine Bros but also shared in your affection for them.

    Her advice: “I would just keep them around to sniff from time to time.”

    Might be the safest bet. Remind you of the flavor you once enjoyed. Even if they didn’t “go bad”, they certainly will not taste like the last box you enjoyed. Eating this old box would be like ending a romantic relationship on a good note, then getting back together just long enough to hate one another.

  2. Jeff Hartman says:

    Man, you are too funny. :)

  3. Guy says:

    Your gut-instincts should tell you not to eat 50-year-old-ebay-bought pills. Send me your mailing address and i’ll send you a slightly newer Pine Bros. cough drops I’ve had sitting in my medicine cabinet :)

  4. AdamA says:

    Haha, you rock Mike.

    Did you know that you hold the #5 rank on google when searching for “addicted to cough drops”? Well Done!

    Here
    is a myspace group you may be interested in.

  5. Mike Montgomery says:

    Looking at my box of Cold-Eeze, it clearly states “This product has no expiration date”. I don’t know how that equates to Pine Brothers Cough Drops, but I would consider them comparable products.

  6. bill h says:

    You only live once. Eat one, save the rest.

  7. web says:

    Mike,

    If you do decide to eat the aforementioned cough drops please post a story (maybe a rip off of “Steve, don’t eat it”) right before you consume them — that way we know whether or not to call an ambulance.

    May be good to get one of those “Help, i’ve fallen and cant get up” beeper necklaces they have.

  8. Rian says:

    Definitely agree with web, you need to think about the poor paramedics arriving at your penthouse.

    You should design an explanatory tattoo for your chest. Something like, “I ate a box of 50-year-old Pine Bros. Cough Drops.” That way when they rip open your shirt to shock you back into a heartbeat, they have some clue as to what is going on.

    If you survive, you can add a second line to the tattoo, “…and lived!” Then you would be the King of Cough Drop Addiction.

  9. Good grief, man! People snort crank, smoke crack, and shoot smack and live to tell about it. Eat one, for Pete’s sake!

  10. Rob L. says:

    Gotta go with the wisdom of the Beerzie Boy on this one.

  11. Tobz says:

    Eat it! Eat it! Eat it!

  12. stubblechin says:

    Eat it, man! Gee, archaelogists have eaten food that’s thousands of years old.

  13. If you eat it, we’ll know. If you live, then you will have been The Man Who Ate A Fifty-Year Old Cough Drop And Lived. If you don’t, then you will have helped educate humanity. :)

  14. Don says:

    well kiss it on day one
    lick it on day two
    nibble it on day three
    suck a lot harder and longer on day four
    just consume the thing on day five when you can’t control yourself any more …

    oh wait you wanted to know about a cough drop, I lost my train of thought

    I doubt that one will kill you. I agree with the first poster, you could well be disappointed. Also keep in mind the differences in production standards from then til now. There is a reason our life expectancies are increasing … no?

  15. Do you want to finally forget about Pine Brothers?

    Here, you’ll never turn back: Grethers Pastilles

  16. Coby says:

    Proof that you CAN buy anything on eBay. Mike, thanks for making me laugh, you are a keeper : )

  17. Chris says:

    I was once working on a project to develop a new range of gum sweets. A packet of the new gum characters arrived at the studio and were quickly devoured by everyone. Couple of hours later, a phone from the client call saying don’t eat them as they are only for visual assessment and would cause stomach upset if eaten, and they were the only mockups in existence.

  18. Jason says:

    I think you need to wait to open the box, get in touch with the folks at Letterman or Conan, tell them the story, and eat one on live, late night TV for us all to see.

    Or, you could try it out on your dog or something first.

  19. Eric Kole says:

    Surprising you should ask, I work at CANTEST, and we’ve just recently tested the toxicity/endurance levels of glycerol in some cough-suppressing syrups. Glycerol should not change form if it is not exposed to air, much like a sugar if you keep it sealed in a container. Depending on the moisture levels and the conditions of the drops when you receive them, they may actually be edible. If the main composition of the cough drops is mainly honey and glycerol, I would think that there’s not much chemical difference from the 50 year-old box to one you would buy at the drug store today.

  20. Bulbboy says:

    10 years ago (while researching my fine art dessertation) I read about archaeologists finding a big jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb. Eventually, after having eaten most of the honey, they discovered at the bottom of the container the perfectly preserved body of a dead child.

    True or rumour? don’t know but memorable.

    I say eat the Pine Bros. What the worst that can happen, a sore throat?

  21. Mike D. says:

    Guy: Nice, I will email you about the newer box. You are the man.

    Josh: Yep, I’m going to try both the Weight Watchers Fruities and the Pastilles you mentioned. I’ve heard great things…

    Eric: Wow, that is great information. “May be edible” is all I had to hear. Depending on their appearance when I remove them from the box, I’m thinking I’m definitely going to have at least one.

    Bulbboy: Oh. My. God. See, this is why I run a blog. Stories of dead children preserved in honey jars. I will think twice the next time I eat honey directly from a large opaque container… and believe me, that’s like every day these days.

  22. Bulbboy says:

    Would you still eat honey from a dead kid jar if you knew the contents and you had a really sweet tooth and nobody was watching? Kind of like dropping your your bon bon and wiping it taken to an extreme.

    =P

  23. Ash Haque says:

    Try at least one of them :-)

  24. Dominique says:

    I’ve heard that twinkies don’t spoil either.

    I know. That wasn’t funny. But it made me smile to put it here.

  25. Paul says:

    “…dead kid jar…”

    Yup, that just about wraps this topic up.

  26. Jack the Revelator says:

    What the hell; eat one for the historic sensation. If you die, it’s as a hero and if you don’t, you’ll have another story to tell on parties!

  27. NJ Barbie Doll says:

    OOh my gosh!! I am laughing so hard!!! I have a sore throat and did a google search for Pine bros…

    The red ones were my absolute favorite. I remember wearing my Wonder Woman underoos eating a whole box of Pine Bros in one sitting.. LOL

  28. flydef says:

    Used to love Pine Bros.!
    Only thing like it today are Grether’s Pastilles, which are actually even better than Pine Bros. Black Current with sugar are the best.

  29. Steve K says:

    OMG this is hilarious. Awaiting review of 50-year old cough drop :lol:

  30. Shawn says:

    Too funny!!! I’m gonna go with a no, they’re not ok to eat.

  31. Mary Jane says:

    I love that I found someone as desperate as I. When I walked into a drug store it was the first thing that I sought out – several boxes of pine bros., but I only ate the cherry flavored. I was not a fan of the honey. Why did they stop making them and why won’t someone else START making them? I still look at the cough drop section and get sad to not see them on the shelf and I am 54 years old………pretty pathetic huh? I agree with Beerzi Boy – but just start out with one!

  32. Jeff says:

    Have you eaten one yet?

  33. Mike D. says:

    UPDATE! The box arrived. Unfortunately, the cough drops appear to be coated in a thin whitish film. It’s probably just crystalized honey or something, but unfortunately, I’m not taking any chances. The dream is over. Sigh.

  34. Bulbboy says:

    Aw, don’t say that Mike. I’m sure at least one of the people on here urging you to take one would gladly try it for you.

  35. Steve K says:

    Give it to Mikey, he’ll eat anything! Wait, what?

  36. Kevin says:

    Mike,

    It’s not over, contact the CANTEST guy and send him a couple. He can do an analysis.

    Come on, just taste. I’ll donate to the hospital fund. :)

    No really it should be fine. My parents worked for food companies years ago and what they found on money made most foods seem downright pure.

  37. Jeff says:

    I’ll bet if it was a 50 year old twinkie, you could still eat it!

  38. MKK says:

    I say we should dig up the Pine Brothers’ “pine boxes” and see if they’re buried with a stash. Do you think they went to the grave with their secret recipe??

  39. Dennis Gormley says:

    I am sitting here eating a box of Pine Bros (Original) Green Tea Drops.
    The back of the box says they are distributed by IVC Industries, Inc. Freehold NJ 2000
    Got the drops at a dollar store.
    I am assuming that the 2000 means a year.
    They are great.
    50 year old Pine Bros……………eat them………..absolutely.
    Hey, when you were a kid and you dropped that last piece of candy on the dirty sidewalk………..what did you do?
    You might throw it away today but back then………..pick up and brush off time.

  40. sharyn says:

    Ok, all you fellow Pine Brothers addicts. I have now tried almost all the substitutes that have been recommended here and elsewhere for our dear departed, but never fogotten, Pine Brothers cough drops, uh, I mean candy. Let’s all tell the truth!!!

    There is a clear cut winner, IMHO. Everone rush to your local Weight Watchers meeting and partake of their cherry flavored fruities. Very close to the wondeful wild cherry flavor of Pine Brothers and almost the same constitency. I suspect you can make WWF’s a little harder if you unwrap them and let them sit for a while.

    Anway, I guess they will have to do since it doesn’t look like our beloved cough drops are reappearing anytime soon. RIP.

  41. Peter W says:

    Why not just keep the drops for another 50 years, and then future generations can talk on this site about whether its safe to eat 100 year old cough drops.

    Resist the temptation for early rewards! just be patient!

  42. Beth says:

    I say eat it how bad can it be?
    Maybe do a princess and the pea type trial (in your case a prince.) Put it under twenty mattresses and if you can feel it from all the way down yonder it’s do able to eat.
    Probably the worst case scenario would be a Rip Van Winkle type sleep for a few days!
    Up to you!

  43. Beth says:

    Just read your update-Re:the white film
    That’s too bad oh well I guess we can all look at the bright side.
    A NEWLY wrapped Mary Jane candy still probably tastes worse than those 50 year old Pine bros ever would have.
    I never met a person who liked those yet they’re still around. Mystery of the candy world.

  44. Kathy says:

    How bad is your cough?

  45. Tom says:

    Eating 50 year old cough drops you bought on ebay ??? Hell yes.
    You only have to eat just one. You will never be bothered with a cough again. Your wife and children will inherit the rest of them.

    I used to buy them at the Paradise and Marbro Theaters on the West side of Chicago and eat them six or seven at a time till the 3 or 4 boxes were empty.
    When I got home my mom would take a long look at me and ask if I was ok. I’d answer “muffemuffelrnsogargan” That meant ‘I have a sore throat’.
    Mom would then give me some Purtissun Cough Medicine and some homemade Honey & Lemon syrup. I haven’t coughed in over 60 years. I sure miss those cough drops. Please send me some, please, I feel like coughing again.

  46. Vicki says:

    Mike,
    I share your passion for Pine Bros. cough drops. That’s what led me to do a search for them. I had a craving for them and wondered if they still made them somewhere. I guess not, after reading your post. I was addicted to them in the early sixty’s and my mom used to tell me that they were a drug – not candy. Hah! If I were you, I would have to try one just to see if they were as good as I remembered. If they are, maybe you could get someone to manufacture them again. Why did they ever stop?
    Go for it!!!!!!

  47. Dominick says:

    I loved the Honey Pine Bros Drops and crave for them today. Mike, did you try nuking them for 5 seconds? Perhaps the white film will disappear.

    OK- you are the expert but I remember – Ludens, Vicks, Smith Bros (black and red), sucrets(sp?), ceprical (sp?) and of course Pine Bros – I know there were more, what am I missing.

  48. Ally G says:

    The next person you see that has a cough, give them a cough drop and if they happen to see the package just tell them it is a special edition. If they survive till the end of the day, buy them a 50 year old drink of brandy.

    Re-sell them, then see if you make a profit, as they must be the most talked about drops in all society.

  49. Steve L says:

    ok, now i don’t feel like such a loser for googling pine bros cough drops.. they were that good!

    Send me a White filmed Pine Bros drop..

    I’ll open it on video, soak it in water for a minute to remove the film, then eat it, and post it on youtube. If for some reason I don’t make it, the CSI guys will have an easy job I guess…

    I held a piece of dog poop on my tongue for 10 seconds to win a swiss army knife in a dare when I was 10.. I think I can handle a cough drop.
    :)

  50. Rhonda says:

    Alright…that’s it! I’ve decided to start an auction for you….if you still haven’t opened them that is….I’ll start the bidding off with a $20.00 bid

  51. Shannon says:

    I’m so glad to hear I am not the only one craving these cough drops….I would have eaten it…although I liked the Cherry flavored the best! Please someone make them again!!! I would buy boxes and boxes of them!

  52. di says:

    I just came online looking up Pine Bros. cough drops to see if I could find them being made somewhere!! :( I am sad to hear they are not. And surprised to hear so many people remember and long for them… like I do. I have a really bad cold and was hunting around the house for something more soothing than the current run-of-the-mill cough drops. (My mouth gets sore from those fruit-flavored hard-candy type) Alas! In my camping first aid kit, I found a box of PINE BROS. HONEY COUGH DROPS!!! YIPPEE, was I excited!! They are so soothing and comforting. I’m guessing mine were about 25 years old. Did I eat them? Yer’ durned right!! (I’m enjoying one right now) They were great and I would not waste them. Then I went to the pharmacy to see if I could get more. The pharmacist from India looked at me like I had two heads when I asked for those. He never heard of them!! Small wonder!! Well, at least now I know I’m going to save the box, since it seems to be an ‘out-of-print antique!’ The box says: active ingredients: Syrup of Acacia, Glycerine, and Honey in a sugar base. Life Savers, Inc., New York, NY 10019, and it has a bar code stamp, so it can’t be too old. I didn’t know Pine Bros. was a division of Life Savers! I cannot believe they are not available for sale!! (I was able to get some Ricola and Fisherman’s Friend cough drops. They don’t compare, but are helpful.)

  53. Steve L says:

    Ok, I finally got around to eating the cough drop…

    My wife and I just had twins, so I’ve been thinking about other things than eating historic cough suppressants.

    I’ve posted it on Youtube so you can see that I actually Ate It!

  54. Steve L says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92HpvVfFPw8

    here’s the link…

  55. Joopman says:

    I will buy a case of Pine Bros. Glycerine Cough Drops, medicated Honey if someone can find a case

  56. renee says:

    I will buy a case of pine bros too if anybody can find a case for me..please do!

  57. [...] eBay for a box of them (that I proceeded to win triumphantly), but they were from the 1950s. So I asked Mike Industries readers if it was ok to eat them, despite a mysterious white film that coated [...]

  58. Debbie says:

    I’ll put in my order too!
    Man O Man I miss those.
    cheers

  59. Debbie says:

    By the way – You ate one! I’m soooooooooo jealous LOL

    The next best thing for me are these hard mini maple leaf shape real maple syrup individually wrapped maple syrup….a lot pricier than our beloved soft honey cough drop.

    BTW – forget the case, I’ll take a truck load!

  60. Debbie says:

    OK – I’ve done a wee bit of work, will see where it takes me – but, here’s a start – this happened in 1998:

    At the same time, IVC Industries launched a new line of Pine Bros. soft throat drops, having recently acquired the Pine Bros. brand name. It initially introduced the drops in two flavors: wild cherry and honey cream. In a press release, Hirschfeld announced, “The Pine Bros. line, which is formulated with zinc, vitamin C and slippery elm, provides us with an entree into the fast growing segment of the cough and cold category recently captured by such nutritional based products as Cold-Eeze and Halls Defense.” For this line IVC secured distribution additional to its existing customer base through such new accounts as Eckerd Drug Stores, Arbor Drug Inc., Genovese Drug Stores Inc., Meijer, Inc., and Neuman Distributors, the largest distributor to independent drugstores on the East Coast.

    Post it here folks if you run across them, we’ll all be beating down their door – and I’ll race you!

    LOL

    cheers

  61. [...] something strikes your interest. I can’t guarantee the same highly intellectual nuggets of thought that fill the pages of Mike Industries, but I will try to write with the same level of detail and [...]

  62. Ryan says:

    I’m British and had never heard of these Pine Bros. things before seeing this blog, which was a total accident and one for which Google may be thanked. I had never seen this site before, or heard of you, Mike, but having read this page I feel I have to give you an indication of the admiration I feel for you. Including my own comment, this little article has garnered 58 lengthy responses from the concerned public. Fifty-eight. About throat lozenges! You truly have a following.

    I salute you.

  63. Juliana says:

    i’ve never tried a Pine Bros. cough drop – ever. my imagining a five year-old in wonder woman underoos inhaling an oldie box of throat drops has sparked a newfound obsession in me. i so, so, so want to spend more than 20 dollars on crusted cough suckers. i’m, no doubt, exploring the grether’s brand website this moment. gah, if only i’d been born a flower child.

  64. Jim M. says:

    These were, bar none, also my favorite cough drops. I know one is usually advised against consuming more than so many of such products within a certain period of time, but I used to eat those Pine Bros. like candy too, and no consequences so far as I know.

    Even though the Pine Bros. package read “medicated,” I don’t think the ingredients were a strong cough expectorant or suppressant as in Robitussin, etc., just more or less a mixture of glycerin/syrup of acacia that soothed and put a coating on the throat.

    That said, to the person considering consuming a 50 year-old cough drop–I’d at least consult a pharmacist before consuming any old medication, or just call one’s local poison control center to verify any potential danger, long or short-term consequences. But my guess is that if kept in a clean, closed package would probably not be dangerous, certainly not life threatening. At most you might get an equivalent of minor food poisoning and purge the spoiled product out of one end or another.

    By the way, my favorite was the cherry flavor, but I grew to like the honey flavor as well. I have also read there were black licorice, lemon and other flavors of Pine Bros., but I’m not recalling them now.

  65. Kathy D says:

    Wow, didn’t realize there were others that shared my affinity for Pine Brothers. I’ve been longing for them for years. They were the best. But only the cherry ones. I didn’t care for any of the others. I liked Luden’s cough drops too, but I don’t see them around any more. I see Smith Bros., but they taste different than I remember. But nothing compares to Pine Brothers.

  66. SEB says:

    I’m with flydef. The Grether’s Pastilles are much better than the Pine Bros and there great for your throat. I can’t stop eating them. Your supposed to suck them but I can’t. About 1 minute after popping one in my mouth, I have to chew the delicious chewy thing! There a little hard to find, and harder to find inexpensively. I go to the http://www.pastillesforless.com website. They seem to be the best. Try it out. Yum!

  67. Larry says:

    I dont think it will kill you but you might get a belly ache,,its probably covered with mold, fungus and bacteria. I am sure it wont taste good. wash it off before eating it.

  68. Barbara says:

    do you know of the company that made the pine bros cough drops? Where can I find them today? Please let me know.

  69. samantha says:

    wat in tha hell kinda question is that ? y would you want to eat 50 yr old cough drops ???? thats nasty !!!! haha well eat them if you want . watever floats your boat !!!!!good luck
    !!!!!

  70. NewYear says:

    It’s 2010.
    Had to keep this post alive as this might be the most informative post about Pine Bros. Cough Drops on the net.
    Happy pineing everyone.

  71. Juliana says:

    i applaud the new year and preservation of the life of this post. for i have been updated since 2008 – dear god, this is awesome.

  72. Laura says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how bizarre my obsession, someone else seems to share it! I take great comfort in this. I was recently describing the chewy honey delectable to my husband, and happily, he, too remembered it fondly, so we both embarked on the same sad journey that has ultimately united all of us right here.

    I have had a particularly miserable day today after having herniated a disk (yet another joy of being old enough to remember Pine Brothers’ Honey cough drops in the first place ), so I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to post here because through the pain, I have had a broad smile across my face–reliving moments of my youth. I can still feel the tension of the cough drop between my molars as I gnawed and gnawed every luscious bit of flavor. Geez, I can almost feel the ache in my jaw now–I mean, after all, who among us ate only one at a time???

    Fight the good fight, folks. Let’s get them to bring them BACK!!!

    Thank you all for making me smile and even for making me laugh out loud in places. Now I have to go back and actually watch the video. I can’t wait to see it!

    Mike, you’re a riot! You have a great way with words. (This is coming from a former English teacher.)

  73. Laura says:

    I should have watched the video first, but in fairness, Steve L. gets his kudos on his own:

    K U D O S!!!!!!

    You’re a very brave man, Steve, and congratulations on the birth of your twins! (You are also lucky to have been able to sample the yummy honey cough drop, in case no one mentioned that to you, nudge nudge, wink, wink). All the best to you and your family.

  74. Amy says:

    Also a Pine Brothers Honey fan, I can recommend this substitute, which sits in your mouth and dissolves the same way, although it comes in Blackcurrant flavor only – Boots Glycerine Blackcurrant Pastilles. I think you can order them online from UK Boots drugstores, and they’re much cheaper than Grether’s.

    http://www.boots.com/en/Boots-Glycerine-Pastilles-Blackcurrant-Flavour-60g_4911/

  75. Lauren F. says:

    I live in Greenfield, Massachusetts. My mother purchased this product, but she does not remember when nor does she remember where she had seen it.
    Now, I am seeking this product around the Western Massachusetts area or near Brattleboro, VT.
    How much are these cough drops? And where would I find them.

  76. Vicki says:

    To Lauren F.- You would have to invent a time machine in order to buy these delicious cough drops and set it for the late 1950′s and early 60′s. I don’t know when they stopped making them, but its a shame they did.

  77. Messaline says:

    For those of you who don’t know this yet, Pine Brothers is back in business as of Feb 2011, bought by the woman who developed Airborne, and using the original recipies.

    So Far Honey and Cherry are available, but the Lemon and Licorace are on their agenda too.

    Their website is http://www.pinebrothers.com. supposedly CVS picked up the line and Pine Brothers site advises that if your local CVS doesn’t have it, ask the manager to get them.

  78. Vicki says:

    Thank you Messaline. Your post is music to my ears. I checked out the website and sure enough, Pine Bros. IS BACK!!!. I hope they are as good as I remember. And thanks to Victoria Knight-McDowell for bringing them back.

  79. Kathy D says:

    Messaline, Thanks for the update. I just got back from CVS and bought a bag of Pine Bros. wild cherry. I almost didn’t buy them because they were so pricy: $3.65 for 32 drops. But then I couldn’t resist buying them. I opened the bag and popped one in my mouth as soon as I got to my car. It was like a little piece of heaven… brought me back about 25 years. The drops are little smaller than I remember, but the taste is the same! Thanks Victoria for bringing them back.

  80. Steve Lynch says:

    Yay!

    Since eating the 50 year old one a year or two ago (whenever that was) I’ve been craving them..

    I’m sooo happy to say that I strolled into CVS today, bought 3 bags, and sat and ate a whole bag while answering e-mails.

    They were just as good as I remembered..

    You know, one thing that no one mentioned ever, that I just realized today?

    Upon eating the first one, I immediately made a realization. These taste exactly like red Ju Ju Bees.

    I ran back in to buy a box, and sure enough, not only were they almost identical in texture, they were almost identical in flavor…

    All these years I’ve been buying all these nasty english pastilles, and black currant lozenges, and all this other stuff that tasted nothing like my beloved Pine Bros, a reasonable ersatz product was staring me in the face every time I went to the movies.

    Oh well, the search is over, Pine Bros are back!

    Thank you Victoria!

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