Viral Tiktok “Pink Sauce” leaves a bad taste for a food safety expert

The once infamous Pink Sauce sold online by a Miami chef has raised plenty of food safety red flags for food policy safety expert Darren Dettweiler, associate professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

“Mail-ordering food during the trial phase is just an accident waiting to happen,” says Dettweiler, who teaches at Northeastern University’s School of Professional Studies.

“You can’t market and ship as if it was successfully done during the beta phase. That’s exactly what the owner of this company does.

Pink Sauce, for those who somehow missed the disastrous debut of the colorful Pepto Bismol condiment, was created by private chef and mixologist by the name of Chef Pii on social media.

Pii showed off the spice on TikTok and Instagram by dipping chicken tenders in a clear bowl of bright pink sauce, and social media users ate them.

Pii says all 100 bottles available for pre-sale sold out immediately, at $20 a bottle, according to the Los Angeles Times. More sales were launched with the launch of the product on the 1st of July.

Then came the backlash.

From Tiktok to Youtube to Twitter, social media users have started asking why the product – which once listed milk as an ingredient – wasn’t shipped in refrigerated containers, how it is regulated, and by whom.

They also want to know the reason for the label, which states that there are 444 servings in each container.

These are all legitimate questions, questions that are becoming increasingly important for consumers to ask with the advent of consumer-oriented food products, Dettweiler says.

In the past, people relied on local grocery stores and restaurants to check food safety and comply with local or state public health inspections, he says.

Dettweiler says that foods sold online gain “instant reputation” once they appear on well-designed websites.

Letting a social influencer sell you a food product is “on the same level as finding a really good deal on some steak I bought from a guy in the back of his pickup truck on the highway,” Dettweiler says.

The purchase carries a level of risk, as evidenced by the fainting of people eating Lentil and Leek Crumbles by Daily Harvest, a popular social media brand.

On July 19, The Daily Harvest identified high-protein tara flour as the cause of illnesses affecting hundreds of people, including 30 who had their gallbladder removed, according to eater.com.

Dettweiler says there is a growing concern about foods being distributed in ways other than traditional establishments.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an explosion in the direct-to-consumer and cottage industries.

But having tennis shoes delivered to your doorstep is one thing. Another thing, Dettweiler says, is to get a food product in the mail, even if it’s a seasoning.

“Suddenly, we have companies like Daily Harvest, like Pink Sauce, that have a website and they’re good for business.”

With Pink Sauce, Dettweiler says, there is no indication that there is a control method to prevent the product from spoiling and to allow the pathogens that cause food poisoning to thrive.

“Just because he’s the next big thing doesn’t mean he’s ready to be the next big thing,” he says.

Dettweiler knows all too well the dangers of food poisoning, having lost his 16-month-old son Riley to E. coli poisoning during an outbreak of the disease in ground beef.

Dr.. Darren Dettweiler, assistant dean for academic and faculty affairs at Northeastern University’s School of Professional Studies in Boston. Julio Choi’s photo

Riley has never eaten a hamburger, but he got a secondary infection at his daycare center from a kid whose mother worked at Jack in the Box.

The death of his son inspired Dettweiler to become a food safety expert and national speaker.

But he says there’s still plenty of room for improvement, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 48 million Americans develop food poisoning each year, 128,000 of whom are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

“Most of these[cases]could have been prevented,” Dettweiler says. “The sad part of this, what I’ve seen over three decades, is that every time we talk about policy changes, it comes after consumers are really hurt.”

Dettweiler says he is concerned that Pii is mass marketing Pink Sauce during what she herself has described as an experimental phase.

“Don’t go to market when you’re in beta,” Dettweiler says.

“It is as if they are operating as a home food industry but they are trying to operate on a national scale. You have to follow the steps and regulatory scrutiny to be compliant.”

Dettweiler says he’s also concerned about posting a video in which Pii indicates that her product shouldn’t be regulated by the FDA because it’s not a drug — a post that made her scoff at not recognizing the letter “F” in the agency’s name to stand for it.

Dettweiler says the Food and Drug Administration already regulates foods involved in interstate commerce. He also says courts have sent CEOs of companies whose food products made people sick or killed people to prison.

Questions about whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sauces are one of the most frequently asked about the federal agency right now, thanks to Pink Sauce. The Food and Drug Administration says on its website that it already regulates dressings and seasonings.

Dettweiler says investors love the idea of ​​instant success but also want to avoid lawsuits.

He says Pii can’t avoid liability by saying that its product is in beta.

“Do they have a food safety plan and have they been approved by the Food and Drug Administration? Do they have a recall plan?” he asked.

“As there continue to be more disruptive elements in the food industry, they will continue to challenge our current policies and put consumers at risk,” says Dettweiler, author of Food Safety, Past, Present, and Predictions.

In response to the flood of criticism surrounding pink sauce, Pii went on Youtube for 52 minutes on July 21 to describe the product’s ingredients as well as the taste – “It’s sweet. It’s garlic. It’s refreshing. You can taste the chili inside.”

She told viewers that the product is prepared in a commercial kitchen and undergoes various stability tests, such as leaving it in the sun or opening it on the counter for a day.

“We adhere to FDA standards. We make the sauce in an FDA approved facility,” Pii says.

“We are currently in lab testing. Once we undergo lab testing, we will be able to put up offers to stores to put pink sauce in stores,” she says.

Pii also says the labels are being corrected, although a quick peek at the site shows that it still says a bottle of Pink Sauce has 444 servings.

Dettweiler says the FDA takes food labels seriously, and for good reason.

“A lot of people have a great idea. But you have to follow the right steps,” he says.

“Trust has to be built through much more than just the endorsement of an influencer on social media.”

For media inquiriesPlease contact media@northeastern.edu.

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