Any college student from the 2010s may remember that Fireball, the cinnamon-flavored whiskey favored for its cheapness, was the subject of rumors that said it was made from antifreeze.
The rumors began in 2014 when Finland, Norway, and Sweden recalled a shipment of Fireball due to its being made from the American recipe, not the European one. This was not too unusual as in many foods the American recipe takes full advantage of the relatively lax attitude the FDA takes toward ingredients.
However, according to HuffPost, the reason why the American Fireball was recalled was because it contained higher than allowed propylene glycol, an additive that appears both in foods and in antifreeze. “Unfortunately, Fireball shipped its North American formula to Europe and found that one ingredient is out of compliance with European regulations,” the company said in a press statement.
In the churning on the internet, the connection to antifreeze became antifreeze proper. However, that step caused Snopes to issue a fact check that allowed for the truth of the recall but came down against the charges of antifreeze.
Propylene glycol is a flavoring agent with a widespread presence and a half-century history. While one might be wary of including yet more flavoring agents into one’s body, the worry of ingesting anything more poisonous than alcohol, in general, is overblown.
To most, propylene glycol probably does not sound that much better than straight antifreeze. However, as Healthline discusses, it is an additive used both in the United States and the European Union, which only objected to the level of propylene glycol in the Fireball, not its presence entirely. It is a synthetic additive that is similar to alcohol and can be used in antifreeze due to its low melting point.
At this point, Healthline introduces a very salient point. Propylene glycol differs from ethylene glycol in that while both can be used for antifreeze, propylene glycol is not toxic to humans. Ethylene glycol, however, is. Perhaps the similarity there is what led to the initial rumors of Fireball containing a toxic antifreeze agent on its ingredient list.
In fact, the only case of propylene glycol poisoning in a human was tied with drinking it from an ice pack with other chemical ingredients. Still, you don’t want to drink from it heavily. It’s not like it is especially good for you either. After all, they do use it in alcohol.