The creator behind the viral "pink sauce" is addressing the internet's concerns after TikTok users questioned the safety of her homemade dipping sauce.
The mystery sauce, which appears to range from an opaque blush to a vibrant fuchsia, has fascinated and horrified people online. TikTok viewers can't stop talking about the product, which costs a whopping $20 per bottle. The tag #pinksauce has 80.9 million views on the app. Pink Sauce was trending on Twitter on Thursday.
The sauce has inspired memes and raised food safety concerns over the product TikTok creator Chef Pii is making, selling and shipping from Florida.
But Chef Pii isn't too concerned. “I’m like, this is the Madonna,” she said in an interview about her product. “This is the Beyoncé of those sauces.”
Chef Pii, who wanted to be referred to by her TikTok username out of concern for her privacy, first showcased the sauce in videos of herself drizzling it on platters of food.
Videos of her preparing the sauce for a pop up event gained attention, and “TikTok demanded that they wanted the pink sauce,” she said.
But not long after the sauce went viral, many on TikTok began pointing out the apparent differences in the color of the product. They questioned Chef Pii's quality control, and noted there is inconsistent nutritional information included on every bottle.
Critics also have wondered whether the sauce is shelf stable, and if it's safe to ship during high summer temperatures. Some pointed out the bottle's label instructs users to refrigerate the product, despite being shipped without temperature controlled packaging, raising further concerns about the possibility of food poisoning.
Others accused her of selling “mayo with food coloring” because Chef Pii initially refused to disclose the ingredients used in the sauce. She eventually released a partial list, which includes dragonfruit, honey, chili, garlic and sunflower seed oil.
In one of the earliest videos she posted featuring the product, Chef Pii dipped a chicken tender in a bowl of magenta liquid. The video, posted on June 11, has roughly 755,000 views. “That look like purple sauce today,” one viewer commented.
Chef Pii said she began experimenting with making a pink sauce in June 2021, and starting posting videos of the “prototypes” later that summer. When she opened her restaurant, Flavor Crazy, that year, Chef Pii began adding her sauce to dishes. During pop up events, “clients would request it.”
Flavor Crazy is no longer operating, Chef Pii said, but “that’s a whole other story.”
The 29-year-old chef is based in Miami, where Florida’s “cottage foods” laws allow individuals to sell certain foods that “present a low risk of foodborne illness” out of unlicensed home kitchens. Cottage food operators can product and sell these products without a permit, as long as their gross sales don’t exceed $250,000 annually.
Food Science Babe, a TikTok creator known for her videos explaining nutrition, pointed out mistakes on the product's nutritional facts label. The bottle couldn't possibly contain 444 single tablespoon servings, Food Science Babe said, and the label contained multiple spelling errors.
In a follow up video, Food Science Babe defended Chef Pii from the internet dogpile, explaining that the backlash was overshadowing the legitimate concerns over labeling issues.
"There are enough real, known concerns regarding this product. This isn't some sort of true crime where you need to solve something," Food Science Babe, who did not immediately respond to an interview request, said. "It's pretty apparent there are issues regarding labeling, formulation and packaging. I don't doubt that the formulation needs help from a preservation and emulsification perspective, but this nonsense doesn't help."
Chef Pii said she's heard about the criticism from people online, and she's "confident" that she'll "bounce back from this 100%."
People love my product. I made a few mistakes. We’re coming back from it and we’re going to grow from there
"I cannot prevent someone from taking a certain action," Chef Pii said. "I can only choose how I respond to it due to the fact that I did create something freakin' amazing. I'm going to stand by that. I love my product. People love my product. I made a few mistakes. We're coming back from it and we're going to grow from there."
She added that earlier videos depicting the sauce as a lighter shade of pink were of “prototypes,” and that she adjusted the hue to “what the audience gravitated to the most.”
Chef Pii claimed she couldn’t initially disclose that she used dragonfruit instead of food coloring before she filed a trademark for the sauce.
She began selling bottles of the sauce on July 1, and to date, has only shipped about 200 units, she said. Her company has since paused production while the product is "currently in official lab testing."
NBC News was unable to confirm whether the product was being lab tested because Chef Pii wouldn’t disclose the name of the facility. She said she can’t do so until the lab results are in.
Addressing viewer concerns over the product's ingredients, Chef Pii said that the pink sauce contains "less than 2% of dry milk," and added that her company is "fixing that on the label as well." She plans to amend the product label to instruct users to refrigerate it after opening. Chef Pii said that the graphic designer "messed up" when designing the label, and promised to "triple proofread" the new one "before it goes out."
"We didn't do a testing on the sauce before sending it out to people," Chef Pii said. "The sauce is absolutely fine without being refrigerated until you open it."
She later clarified in a text message that she did do "quality testing" beforehand.
She said that she's open to lowering the price of the bottle if she can partner with a "mass distributor or big company" to get the product in stores.
For now, though, Chef Pii said that she's focused on keeping her customers in the loop on updates.
"We had a few mishaps," Chef Pii said. "You know, since this is so big, everybody wants a platform off of my platform ... We only have like a handful of refund requests. Everybody else is saying, 'baby girl, get it right' and 'we are waiting on our sauce.'"