These Soviet-Era Candy Bars Contain Cow’s Blood

Stock photo of a chocolate bar
ExplorerBob / Pixabay

Chances are if you grew up in the ’90s, you’ve probably heard stories (or rumors) about harmful ingredients ending up in a beloved candy or sweet treat. While sharp objects — such as pins and needles — have been found in Halloween candy in the past, as proven true by Snopes, there have been dozens of myths relating to poisoned candy, to the point that there’s an entire Wikipedia page on the subject.

Still, while there have been plenty of bizarre ingredients that have accidentally (or maliciously) found their way into food, occasionally, an odd ingredient will be purposefully included, as evidenced by one popular brand of Soviet-era candy bar.

As reported by Fox News, one chewy, chocolatey Russian snack reigned supreme before the fall of the Soviet Union, and it contained a rather bizarre ingredient: blood.

The candy bar in question, Hematogen (in retrospect, the name was kind of a giveaway) contains a variety of ingredients, including beet sugar, sugary syrup, vanillin, condensed milk, and dried cow’s blood.

As reported by VICE, the popular sugary treat was often given out to young children in Soviet-era Russia in order to treat anemia, which is prevalent in young children. Maria Pirogovskaya, who grew up in the Soviet Union, recalls that her mother would often purchase the candy at a pharmacy, and before long, Maria had picked up the same habit.

“I bought it every time I passed near a pharmacy and had pocket money,” Maria recounted.

As VICE notes, one of the ingredients listed on the back of the candy’s packaging was black food albumin, which is a technical term for blood. As a result, it seems many customers were not entirely aware of what they were consuming, and each Hematogen bar contained at least 5 percent dried cow’s blood.

Despite the odd ingredient, Hematogen remained a popular item in Soviet pharmacies for years and years, and it’s still available today, though it’s not nearly as widespread as it once was. A handful of new varieties — treating everything from the common cold to minor skin conditions — have hit the market, and one food expert notes that the bar can be readily purchased in America.

“You can actually go and buy it right now in New York,” explains Anastasia Lakhtikova, co-editor of Seasoned Socialism: Gender and Food in Late Soviet Everyday Life.

For those who don’t feel like making the trek out to New York, Fox News notes that the candy is also sold on Amazon.