Pink Sauce — a Pepto-Bismol-colored condiment made famous by TikTok — has recently sparked a conversation around food safety, particularly regarding products made by small businesses.
The topping is the creation of Chef Pii, of Miami Florida, who went viral on the social media platform after sharing a video of herself dipping a chicken finger into a bowl of the bright pink sauce. That video has gotten over 800,000 views.
But over the weeks, Chef Pii and her Pink Sauce received quite a bit of criticism — misspelled words (“vinger” instead of vinegar); a curious amount of servings per container (444 one-tablespoon servings, which amounts to 28 cups); and complaints about being shipped “bloated” or exploded bottles, and of changes in color and texture.
Chef Pii originally refused to tell customers what was in the pink bottles, but she posted a video revealing the ingredients: water, sunflower seed oil, raw honey, distilled vinegar, garlic pitaya/dragon fruit, pink Himalayan sea salt, dried spices, lemon juice, milk, citric acid.
In another video, Chef Pii is seen commenting that “the Pink Sauce [doesn’t] contribute to your health,” and therefore doesn’t need to be vetted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), since it’s not a “medical product.” But that’s not necessarily true.
FDA rules aren’t straightforward with direct-to-consumer companies like Pink Sauce — they tend to be subject to their state health department. But the FDA does require that anyone who sells condiments register the location of their facility and have evidence of food safety testing, manufacturing compliance and “scientific protocols.”
And how can Pink Sauce be sold online for $20 a pop while, by Chef Pii’s own admission in yet another video, it is still “currently in lab testing”? Here’s why food safety experts have some very real concerns.
“Low-acid foods like raw garlic or dragon fruit being put in a high oil content (can) lead to botulism without any acidification of those low acid foods,” says Benjamin Chapman, PhD, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University.
“What’s really unknown or unclear is the pH of this product,” Chapman adds. “Some people say on TikTok that when the bottle is opened up, it pops or fizzes, or a gas formed. That’s an indication that there could be a growth of pathogens. (And) the fact that it’s shipped unrefrigerated really concerns me, due to ingredients like milk requiring refrigeration to remain fresh and safe.”
Darin Detwiler, PhD, an associate professor of food safety at Northeastern University, says, “It appears that Pink Sauce is shipped through interstate commerce, so the FDA would have regulatory authority.”
FDA agents have since visited Chef Pii’s home.