Some people call it pepper spray.
Others call it mace as a deference to the medieval weapon of the same name. Some people consider it a non-lethal restraining mechanism while some think it a weapon. But whatever you call it and consider it, is that what you’re consuming when you enjoy hot pepper sauce on your meals? The answer to that is not exactly straightforward. That’s because pepper spray and mace are actually different chemical compounds. What is hot pepper mace?
The Difference between Mace, Pepper Spray and Hot Pepper Sauce
There is a big difference between mace and pepper spray; they are made of different substances even though the name for these deterrents are used interchangeably.
Pepper spray makes use of the active compound found in the flesh of hot chili peppers. This is known as capsaicin and it’s the stuff that makes chilies, and hot pepper sauces feel as though they are searing your throat. Capsaicin is found in all chili peppers to varying degrees. The more capsaicin a chili pepper has, the higher its Scoville heat ranking. For example, a jalapeňo has between 1000-4000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Habaneros range between 100,000-350,000 SHU while a Carolina Reaper has about 2 million SHU. If you were to extract pure capsaicin from chili pepper, it would max the Scoville scale with 16 million SHU. When it comes to standard police pepper spray, you can expect it to have about 5,300,000 SHU. Yes. The intensity of the non-lethal weapon sprayed to disperse crowds is over 5 million SHU. Wild, right?
Hot pepper sauce also makes use of capsaicin to create the desired levels of heat. But, mace is something different altogether. It’s made from a chemical that’s not found in chilies. Mace makes use of the chemical Chloroacetophenone. It’s a chemical that the US military had initially considered for use during World War II. Strangely enough, the guy who patented Chemical Mace as a method for self-defense had also tried to patent a bacon cooker and a waterless egg cooker. He also kept an alligator in his basement, but that’s another story. He secured the relevant patents for Chemical Mace in 1969 though mace wasn’t made available for personal use until 1981.
Is Your Hot Pepper Sauce As Hot As Pepper Spray?
So, you’re not eating mace (and really, we do not in any way suggest that you try), but is your hot pepper sauce as sizzling as pepper spray?
Nope. Not in the least. Hot pepper sauces contain plenty of capsaicin, but at a certain SHU point, they stop being a condiment. In fact, once you hit about 1 million SHU you cannot call it a hot pepper sauce. And really, there are no sauces that pass this point. So, that means that what you might have sprayed in your eyes is 5 times more potent than the hot pepper sauce you can put on your chicken wings.
But, don’t despair. Just because you’re not going to get a hot pepper sauce with more than a million SHU, it doesn’t mean you can’t get stronger food additives because you can. They’re called pepper extracts though, and they are labeled as a food additive. That’s because you really can only add a drop to an entire pot of food and still feel as though you’re on fire. If you’re keen to try some pepper extract, remember that even 1 million SHU is a lot to take. It’s nearly 3 times hotter than the original Mad Dog 357 Hot Pepper Sauce. And that sauce is over 70 times hotter than Tabasco.
But, more importantly, you should know that you’re not slathering mace on your food. Oh, and the inventor of mace kept an alligator in his basement; that seems rather pointless, yet important information to have.