TikTok’s viral Pink Sauce is trending, but not for all the right reasons. Miami-based Chef Pii or Pink Sauce Queen, has come under fire for not knowing what the FDA stands for. (FYI, it’s the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.) In a TikTok livestream on July 25, fans of the Pink Sauce asked Chef Pii if the sauce was FDA approved. To which she responded, “What do you mean FDA approved? I don’t sell medical products.” Her response caused a Twitter frenzy of people calling her out and raising concerns over the safety of the Pink Sauce. But, is TikTok’s Pink Sauce safe, and what does the FDA have to do with it?
To recap, the Pink Sauce launched on July 1, and TikTok was all over the totally Barbiecore sauce until the negative reviews started pouring in. Pink Sauce buyers reported long shipping times and rotting smells. One reviewer posted a video apparently showing that the sauce bottle exploded during delivery. According to The Los Angeles Times, a big concern was the inclusion of milk and that there didn’t appear to be any refrigeration involved in the shipping process (or a recommendation to refrigerate the sauce). People pointed out the potential dangers of foodborne botulism that “can be caused by a food that is not prepared or stored properly,” according to the CDC. Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that causes “difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and even death.” Elite Daily reached out to Chef Pii for comment regarding the claims, but did not hear back at the time of publication. In a July 21 interview with The Washington Post, Chef Pii said, “I’ve been using it and serving it to my clients for a year — no one has ever gotten sick.”
Since food products don’t need pre-approval from the agency — the FDA only gets involved when food safety issues arise — the FDA couldn’t confirm to Elite Daily whether the Pink Sauce is safe. An FDA spokesperson said in an email, “As a general matter, food producers are required to follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) to help ensure the safety of food … 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.”
According to Motherboard, Pii went live on YouTube On July 26, and she said in the video that she’s in contact with the FDA: “The F, f’ing, DA, federal, came to my business yesterday. I am 100% compliant, I’m abiding with the FDA.” She elaborated that she wasn’t being reprimanded, but that the agency was assisting to make things better. “Nobody can accuse the Pink Sauce of anything going forward,” she said.
Prior to that, customers couldn’t get over the inconsistencies and were worried if the product was OK to consume. In a July 26 interview with Health, Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D., a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, said the Pink Sauce concerns are valid because of its unknown pH levels. Low-acid foods like raw garlic, dragon fruit, and milk with a pH value over 4.6 are the most common sources of botulism, according to the CDC. “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,” Chapman told Health. “The fact that it’s shipped unrefrigerated really concerns me.”
But where does the FDA come into all this pink mess? It’s kinda tricky. The “FDA regulates all foods and food ingredients introduced into or offered for sale in interstate commerce, with the exception of meat, poultry, and certain processed egg products regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” per the FDA. While the “FDA does not have premarket approval of food products, it has the authority to approve certain ingredients before they are used in food or intended to contact food. Those include food additives … and color additives.”
The Pink Sauce claims to use dragon fruit as a natural food coloring and lists its ingredients to be water, sunflower seed oil, raw honey, distilled vinegar, garlic, pitaya, pink himalayan sea salt, and less than 2% of dried spices, lemon juice, milk, and citric acid. The nutrition label still reads “444 servings” online even though Chef Pii clarified the mistake in a now-deleted TikTok video from July 20 that there are actually 444 grams and about 30 servings per bottle. In the now-deleted video mentioned that was originally posted on July 20, she said, “we are following FDA standards” and they are “lab testing.” The FDA does not approve individual food labels before products are marketed, but its “regulations require specific labeling elements” that “must be truthful and not misleading.” So, always read the fine print.
Things get more complicated when food products are shipped across state lines. Chapman told Health, “Each state has slightly different rules about food entrepreneurs.” FDA regulations kick in when the product is sold in interstate commerce or to a wholesaler. It’s unclear where the Pink Sauce is being produced, although it appears to be in Florida. On the bottle, it lists a production company named Flavor Crazy Inc and a location in Hollywood, Florida. According to Gawker, the company is owned by Veronica B Shaw, who has been listed as the owner since July 2021. As the website points out, though, it’s not clear if Chef Pii and Veronica B Shaw are one and the same.
Whether Pink Sauce is manufactured at Chef Pii’s home or at a facility where it would need to be registered with the FDA. To err on the side of caution, the FDA advises food businesses to discuss product details with the FDA District Office and the state and local regulatory agencies.
In Florida, where Chef Pii is based, there is a Cottage Food law that allows people to produce and sell food products without a permit as long as sales don’t exceed $250,000 annually. However, “bottling produce” is under the list of prohibited foods, as are the likes of “salsa, barbecue sauces, ketchups, mustards.” There’s technically no “Pink Sauce” classification, but pretty sure it falls under sauces. According to Cottage Food regulations, it “must meet significant federal and state requirements.”
The Pink Sauce is sold out as of July 29, and it appears Chef Pii has been addressing the issues. If you’re still curious to try it, according to Pii’s WaPo interview on July 21, the chef hopes to ramp up production and shop it to stores, so there may be a new iteration of Pink Sauce you can look forward to.