Woman pouring pink sauce onto fried chicken

@chef.pii/TikTok

EXCLUSIVE: Chef behind viral ‘Pink Sauce’ speaks out

The hype over TikTok's latest food trend quickly spoiled.

 

Grace Stanley

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 21, 2022   Updated on Sep 28, 2022, 11:14 am CDT

A TikToker named Chef Pii, who has been selling and marketing a condiment she calls “Pink Sauce” over the past two months, is under fire after users pointed out the inconsistency of the sauce coloring across different bottles, errors on her product’s nutritional label, as well as expressed safety concerns over its perishability and shipping.

Chef Pii (@chef.pii), who also calls herself the “Pink Sauce Lady,” now has over 80,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram. It appears Chef Pii first posted about Pink Sauce back in June, and has since been marketing the product non-stop on TikTok and Instagram, attracting millions of views. In one of her first videos about the sauce, she says she came up with the idea for an “off-the-wall” colorful sauce using natural ingredients, like dragon fruit, a little over a year ago. 

In her first videos about Pink Sauce, its bottles did not feature a nutritional label. When comments came in regarding the food’s safety, Chef Pii responded saying she has been a professional chef for over four years, is in the process of “quality testing” her product, and would eventually provide a nutritional label before shipping the sauce out. 

Controversy further took off in June when the TikToker posted a video, which attracted over 5 million views, of herself pouring a large jug of oil into a blender and funneling the pink sauce into containers in her home kitchen, sparking debate in its comments section about the safety of the seemingly homemade product being ordered and shipped across the country. 

@chef.pii Its the Aquarius Virgo Creative Extra Energy 🤪😂😂👑👑 #beyonce ♬ original sound – vicmram

A few days after Chef Pii went viral, she began to sell the pink sauce via her online store. In a June video, Pii said her pre-sale for the first 100 orders of the product sold out. On July 1, the product went on sale again for its “official launch.” Chef Pii told Passionfruit on a phone call that she does not make her final product out of her home kitchen, and instead works in a commercial kitchen facility. She also said she possesses food and safety certifications but did not disclose which certifications she has specifically. 

Soon after the product’s official launch, mixed reviews and various concerns over the product rolled in. While some TikTok users vigorously supported the business owner for her unique product, many pointed out inconsistencies in the product’s coloring, which ranges from very light pink in some videos to bright, hot pink in others

This week, more criticisms rolled in as users reported delays in shipment and damaged packages with sauce spilling out. In one video, which received over 78,400 views, a TikToker showed her pink sauce appearing spoiled and alleged it smelled “rotten.”

@r8ch3ll #pinksaucereview @PINK SAUCE QUEEN 👑💖🤤 ♬ original sound – Kaylen🤭

Pii told Passionfruit she is working hard to resolve some of the shipment issues reported by customers. She explained the packages were “smushed” in transit, and she is now changing her packaging and will no longer use the United States Postal Service as a carrier due to the shipment issues. 

“I guess when you’re great, you can’t make a mistake, but, I mean, yeah. My team is working quickly to fix the issues,” Pii said. “We had some delays with getting into our facility and stuff like that. We had shipment issues. However, we’re working rapidly to fix all the problems. [We’re working on] reaching back out to our customers who actually purchased the product and communicating with them diligently.” 

Two days ago, in a video that has over 426,700 views, TikToker Justin English (@ana1bleachkimlipbiaswhor) pointed out errors and misprints on the product’s nutritional label, which is available on its website, including the claim that the container has 444 servings of 14.4 grams—or over 14 pounds of sauce. For context, that’s equivalent to the weight of over a gallon of paint. 

@ana1bleachkimlipbiaswhor Replying to @stephano.0 #greenscreen ♬ original sound – slay

In this viral video, English also criticized Pink Sauce for containing milk, a perishable ingredient, and accused Pii of shipping the product improperly without refrigeration

The TikToker explains that although there are shelf stable sauces with similar ingredients, like Hidden Valley Ranch, which you can purchase at the grocery store, these sauces contain preservatives to keep its perishable ingredients from spoiling without refrigeration. Pink Sauce only contains naturally occurring preservatives like honey and citric acid, which typically are not enough to preserve a condiment cross-country without refrigeration. 

When asked, Pii told Passionfruit her product contains less than 2% dried milk and that she uses citric acid and vinegar as preservatives. She said she feels confident these naturally occurring preservatives are sufficient for keeping the food safe for shipment. 

Additional errors on the product’s nutritional label include “vinegar” being misspelled as “vinger” and a missing metric in its Vitamin C contents. The label also says a serving of sauce has only 3 grams of carbohydrates, despite it also claiming it has over 11 grams of sugar and 4 grams of dietary fiber. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) labeling guidelines, sugars and dietary fibers must be included under total carbohydrates. 

“Pink Sauce was definitely not made in a facility, or was looked over by anyone with any understanding of, like, food science, food packaging, FDA regulations,” English said in his video. 

For context, the FDA requires most food products crossing state lines to use a nutritional label with truthful information about its serving size, nutrient content, and ingredients. It also requires producers of condiments to acquire food facility registrations. 

However, even interstate food products and food nutritional labels are not required to be “approved” by the FDA prior to hitting the market. Oftentimes the FDA enforces safety standards only after a product has already been launched and safety concerns have been brought to its attention, according to its website

The FDA does have nutritional label exceptions for small businesses that have less than 100 employees, less than 100,000 units shipped out, or sell less than $50,000 worth of products annually. It’s unclear if Pink Sauce exceeds these metrics.

Pii did not confirm or deny if her business fell under this exemption. She said that although she never told customers the product was “FDA-approved,” she is still following all necessary FDA guidelines.

She also said one of her employees handling the nutritional label made a typo resulting in the infamous 444 servings per container and that all future shipments will contain corrected labels. She also said she’s sending out letters and disclosures to some customers for transparency about the issues that have taken place. 

“Our nutrition fact label had an error in it and now they’re trying to carry it along and say the nutrition is falsified because there’s a typo,” Chef Pii told Passionfruit. “No one will receive a bottle that has the messed up label. We had to redo everything pretty much. But business is business.”

In a recent TikTok, Pii apologized for the errors on the nutritional label and said she is currently undergoing “lab testing” in an attempt to sell her products in stores. Typically, before sauces hit the market, they are required to seek testing from food process authorities to search for risks for food-borne illnesses like botulism, a deadly food poisoning contracted from improperly preserved foods.  

@chef.pii

WE ARE FIXING THE ISSUES

♬ original sound – PINK SAUCE QUEEN 👑💖🤤

Pii did not respond to further inquiries from Passionfruit about what kind of lab testing she is in the process of going through. She said she would be providing a “detailed response” to the rest of the controversy in a YouTube video Thursday night. 

The Pink Sauce phenomenon has exploded on TikTok, with #pinksauce attracting over 77.2 million views. It also made its way to Twitter, where users are going viral for posting memes and threads about the controversy. Users even tried to recreate the sauce themselves. 

One TikTok creator, TikToker Sean (@seansvv), received over 5.6 million views on a video posted Tuesday after pointing out the errors on the product’s nutritional label and inconsistent coloring. They explain cottage laws in their video, which allow small food producers to sell products out of their home kitchens without food permits. However, as they point out, these laws do not apply to the Pink Sauce sales, which cross state lines and thus fall under the FDA. 

Sean told the Passionfruit in a phone interview that after posting his video, Chef Pii blocked them on TikTok. They said they are not trying to hurt or attack Pii but instead want to help her and provide her with constructive feedback. 

“This is a Black-owned business. I’m a Black person entering the space, and I want to do everything in my power to give [Chef Pii] the benefit of the doubt but to add constructive criticism to this space,” Sean said. “My priority is to keep people safe—to keep people from dying from botulism.” 

Another creator who responded to the Pink Sauce debate is Charlynda Scales (@charlyndajean), a small business owner who founded her own sauce called Mutt’s and provides mentorship to other founders. Scales posted multiple viral videos discussing the importance of transparency via food labels and proper food safety testing. 

“When I was reading comments and questions about food safety, specific to sauce, I felt compelled to share what I know from my experience. Foodborne illness is serious, and if I could contribute education that will save a life, I will,” Scales told Passionfruit. “My advice to any food founder is to take your time perfecting your manufacturing process. Send it to a lab to get tested, so they can tell you how to safely prepare it for mass consumption.” 

Passionfruit reached out to the FDA and the Florida Department of Health for comment via email.


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*First Published: Jul 21, 2022, 12:14 pm CDT