Varieties of preserved food
The Peanut Butter Mayo Drug Scare That Shook The 1960s
By Elias Nash
A peanut butter and mayo sandwich may not sound very appetizing, but during the Great Depression, it became a staple that remained popular right up to the 1960s. However, at the tail end of the 1960s, a rumor suggesting that the youth of America were getting high on PB&M began to circulate and give rise to a moral panic.
On October 22, 1969, a panicked headline appeared in The Fort Scott Tribune reading, “Peanut Butter, Mayonnaise Trips Fatal to Youngsters.” The article cited Ernest Carabillo Jr. of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who said that an underground cookbook containing “culinary escapes from reality” had been circulating among the youth.
Carabillo Jr. could not present proof of this claim because the whole thing was a hoax that may have stemmed from a misinterpretation of slang terms. According to the Spotify podcast “Food Crime,” at the time, “peanut butter” was used in some circles to reference heroin, and “mayo” could refer to both heroin and cocaine.
One person who fell for this hoax was Richard Nixon, who wrote, “In certain regions, they are so crazy and insane as to inject into their bloodstream peanut butter [...] Mayonnaise they are inserting into their bodies.” With that in mind, the next time you hear about people getting high on food, take it with a (non-hallucinogenic) grain of salt.