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A Pepto-colored condiment has completely flooded TikTok, starting a firestorm of social media discourse around it and its potential dangers.
On June 11, Chef Pii, a Miami-based private chef and social media influencer posted a short TikTok of herself dipping a chicken tender into a bowl of bright pink sauce before taking a bite. That one video garnered over 755,000 views but only just began the journey of a product she invented called “pink sauce.”
Chef Pii’s TikToks have garnered millions of views, with her most-viewed video currently at 6.7 million. Any video involving the sauce on her account, which she says contains sunflower seed oil, honey, chili, garlic and dragon fruit (what makes it pink) have attracted tens of thousands of views, and there are at least 100 of them so far.
(Out of concern for her privacy, Chef Pii asked to be referred to by her TikTok username.)
On Thursday, discussion surrounding this pink sauce was trending on Twitter, mostly criticizing the way it achieved viral fame through less-than-clear means.
“Buying PINK sauce that has an unknown flavor and is being shipped in BAGS during summer heat is definitely a choice,” one person tweeted.
In addition to countless tweets and memes, there are some real concerns about the safety of a product that, as Chef Pii told NBC News is “still in testing.”
“First of all, (the label says) 444 servings but the serving size is 1 tablespoon. That’s around 28 cups,” said TikTok user @annareportsnews in a video that garnered 1.8 million views. She also said that some people received spilled materials when they got their orders and added that the labels for all orders sent so far are not correct. “Is anything else on the label actually correct?”
Pink sauce critics also pointed out that, according to the label on products that customers received, the sauce contains milk, but the packaging neglects to provide refrigeration requirements typical of foodstuffs that contain dairy, nor does it provide an expiration date.
These risks are why the Food and Drug Administration closely regulates the sale of condiments and sauces, requiring anyone who wants to sell them to the public by obtaining food facility registration.
The FDA’s registration process requires applicants to meet certain criteria regarding product labeling, manufacturing practices, its chemical makeup (which is achieved through submitting the product for scientific testing) and more.
This is why, as TikTok user and sauce manufacturer @metalhoneyfoodshbic said in her TikTok going over her own test results for a hot honey company called Metal Honey Foods, include an item that tells product manufactures “how likely it is to grow something like botulism, which can kill you.”
Foodborne botulism can be caused by improperly stored food, such as home canned foods that have not been properly prepared or a food that’s not prepared or stored properly, according to the CDC.
The CDC also warns that common sources of foodborne botulism include homemade foods (or, foods not made at a facility intended for that purpose) that have been improperly canned, preserved or fermented.
TikToker @seansvv called out who they nicknamed “Pink Sauce Lady” for errors in her labeling and how hard it was to discover the label on her website. Since then, that one oversight has since been addressed, even though the incorrect serving amount still reads on the image on the site.
They also said that “there are not enough preservatives” within the sauce “to make shelf stable,” remarking that they’re concerned about the product’s safeness if it hasn’t been FDA-approved yet.
“I want to protect you,” said @seanvv. “Because if someone gets sick from this, I’m scared for the person who gets sick and the person who owns this business.”
Since the eruption of concern over her rose-colored condiment, Chef Pii released a video apologizing for the mistakes and issues regarding her product.
“Number one my apologies, my apologies, my apologies,” she said on TikTok. “I’m only human, I am not perfect.”
Chef Pii goes on to explain that there was “a mix-up” with the labeling, listing tablespoons instead of grams, amongst other errors. Still, there is critique of the rollout of this now-viral sauce, namely whether or not it will make people go a different kind of viral.
“We did a pre-launch of about 100 units on June 25, and then we opened the site July 1,” Chef Pii told TODAY Food in a phone call.
She also said that the sauce changed over time from a deep pink to a lighter one, another facet of the sauce-garnering side-eyes, because the product makeup changed from its prototype, which she served in person to clients and what she ended up sending to customers.
“We changed the color due to the audience’s perspective, because they were complaining that the pink was too bright,” Chef Pii explained. “So then we made it a little lighter. Everything that they’re judging, those are all prototypes.”
She also said that she’s paused production on the sauce. She also said she will be sending an email to customers who have already purchased the products. On Thursday evening, she posted a nearly-hour-long video titled “Lets clear somethings up!” on her YouTube channel.
“I do want to let you know that we paused productivity,” Chef Pii told TODAY. “(Our customers’) health is our number one priority. Their trust is our number one priority, making them happy. And bringing the pink sauce out properly is our number one priority.”
In the caption for another pink sauce controversy video, @seansvv later wrote, “I’m genuinely rooting for her to obtain a license, fix the labels, correct any errors and then sell out — legally.”
TODAY reached out to the FDA to verify whether Chef Pii’s pink sauce is in the process of product registry, and an FDA spokesperson did not confirm or deny, but said that, as a general matter, food producers are required to follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices to help ensure the safety of food. CGMP regulations generally address matters including appropriate personnel hygienic practices, design and construction of a food plant and maintenance of plant grounds, plant equipment, sanitary operations, facility sanitation and production and process controls during the production of food.
“As is always the case, it is a manufacturer’s continuing responsibility to ensure that foods marketed are safe, wholesome and in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements,” the spokesperson said.
The FDA also said that it “takes seriously reports of illnesses or injury that appear likely to have been caused by an FDA-regulated product.” If a consumer suspects a certain food product has made them sick and wants to voluntarily report a complaint or adverse event (illness or allergic reaction) related to that food product, the FDA suggests they take action in one of a few ways.
They can call an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator if they wish to speak directly to a person about their problem. They can also complete an electronic Voluntary MedWatch form online or a paper Voluntary MedWatch form that can be mailed to the FDA.
“The people that know me and know my food know where I come from and know my story over the years,” Chef Pii said about the negative attention she’s getting on social media. “They know the pink sauce and they trust me, because they know my work. However, TikTok don’t know me from anything.”
EDITOR’S NOTE (July 25, 2022 at 2:57 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with a statement from the Food and Drug Administration.
Washington, D.C. native Joseph Lamour is a lover of food: its past, its present and the science behind it. With food, you can bring opposites together to form a truly marvelous combination, and he strives to take that sentiment to heart in all that he does.
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