The now infamous Viral Times Pink Sauce sold online by a Miami chef has raised many food safety red flags for a food policy safety expert Darin Detwilerassociate professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

“Ordering food by mail during a trial phase is just an impending accident,” says Detwiler, who teaches at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies.

“You can’t market and ship as if it has successfully passed through the trial phase. That’s exactly what the owner of this business does,” he says.

The pink sauce, for those who somehow missed the early Pepto Bismol color condiment debacle, was created by a private chef and mixologist who goes by the name of Chef Pii on social media.

Pii demonstrated the condiment on ICT Tac and Instagram by dipping chicken fillets in a clear bowl of hot pink sauce, and social media users ate it.

Pii says the 100 bottles available for presale sold out immediately, at $20 a bottle, according to the Los Angeles Times. More sales were recorded with a July 1 product launch.

Then came the backlash.

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

They also want to know what’s up with the labeling, which says there are 444 servings per container.

These are all legitimate questions, questions that are becoming increasingly important for consumers to ask with the rise of direct-to-consumer food products, Detwiler says.

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

But food sold online gains “instant reputation” as soon as it appears on well-designed websites, says Detwiler.

Allowing a social influencer to sell you a food product “is on the same level as finding a really good deal on some steaks you bought from a guy in the back of his van on the freeway,” Detwiler says.

Buying comes with a level of risk, as evidenced by the disgust of people eating Lentil and Leek Crumbles from Daily Harvest, a popular brand on social media.

On July 19, Daily Harvest identified high-protein tara flour as the cause of illnesses affecting hundreds of people, including 30 people whose gallbladders were removed, according to eater.com.

There are growing concerns about food being distributed by means other than brick-and-mortar establishments, Detwiler says.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an explosion in the direct-to-consumer and cottage industries, he says.

But it’s one thing to have tennis sneakers delivered to your doorstep. It’s another thing to receive a food item in the mail, even a condiment, says Detwiler.

“All of a sudden we have companies like Daily Harvest, like Pink Sauce, that have a website and they’re good to go.”

With pink sauce, there’s no indication that a control method is in place to prevent the product from spoiling and allowing pathogens that cause botulism to grow, Detwiler says.

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

Detwiler knows all too well the dangers of food poisoning, having lost her 16-month-old son, Riley, to E. coli poisoning during a high-profile ground beef outbreak.

Dr. Darin Detwiler, associate dean of academic and faculty affairs at the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Photo by Julio Chuy

Riley had never eaten a hamburger, but he contracted a secondary infection at his daycare center from a child whose mother worked at Jack in the Box.

Her son’s death inspired Detwiler to become a national expert and speaker on food safety.

But he says there is still more to be done, with the Centers for Disease Control and Preventing saying 48 million Americans are sick each year from food poisoning, of which 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

“Most of these (cases) could have been prevented,” Detwiler said. “The saddest thing about all of this, what I’ve seen for three decades, is that every time we talk about policy changes, it comes after consumers have already been harmed.”

Detwiler says he’s worried because Pii is mass-marketing the pink sauce during what she herself described as a trial phase.

“You don’t go to market when you’re in a trial phase,” says Detwiler.

“It looks like they’re operating like a cottage food industry, but they’re trying to operate on a national scale. You must go through regulatory steps and audits in order to be compliant.

Detwiler says he’s also concerned about a video post in which Pii says his product doesn’t have to be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it’s not a drug — a post that made him angry. earned ridicule for not recognizing what the “F” in the agency’s name stands for.

The FDA regulates foods involved in interstate commerce, Detwiler says. He also says that courts have jailed corporate executives whose food products have sickened or killed people.

Whether the FDA regulates sauces is one of the most popular questions facing the federal agency right now, thanks to Pink Sauce. The The FDA states on its website that it actually regulates salad dressings and condiments.

Investors love the idea of ​​instant success, but they also want to avoid lawsuits, Detwiler says.

He says Pii cannot escape responsibility by saying his product is in the trial phase.

“Do they have a food safety plan and has it been validated by the FDA? Do they have a recall plan? ” he asks.

“As we continue to have more disruptive elements in the food industry, they will continue to challenge our existing policies and put consumers at risk,” says Detwiler, author of Food security, past, present and forecasts.

In response to the flood of criticism surrounding the pink sauce, Pii sued Youtube for 52 minutes on July 21 to describe the product’s ingredients and taste: “It’s sweet. It’s garlic. It’s spicy. You can taste the chilli inside.

She told viewers that the product was prepared in a commercial kitchen and subjected to various stability tests, such as being left out in the sun or open on the counter for a day.

“We meet FDA standards. We manufacture the sauce in an FDA-approved facility,” says Pii.

“We are currently in laboratory testing. Once we pass the lab tests, we can offer stores to put the pink sauce in stores,” she says.

Pii also says the labeling is being fixed, although a quick look at the website shows it still says the bottle of pink sauce has 444 servings.

The FDA takes food labels seriously, and for good reason, Detwiler says.

“There are a lot of people who have a great idea. But you have to follow the proper steps,” he says.

“Trust should be built by more than a social media influencer’s endorsement.”

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