Between TikTok’s ‘Pink Sauce’ drama and Daily Harvest’s poisonous lentils, maybe it’s best to stick to the supermarket
I don’t claim to have the healthiest diet. Too much salt, dairy and over processed snacks — the last being what fuels me as I write. Love a fast food drive-thru. Wouldn’t think twice about eating a fried Oreo at the state fair, even though the last one I had gave me indigestion. What I’m trying to say is that in theory, I’m all for a novelty condiment called “Pink Sauce” that you can put on tacos and chicken. Until I learn it’s being sold by a TikTok-famous chef through the mail.
In the space of a month, Chef Pii’s Pink Sauce — which reportedly tastes kind of like ranch and costs $20 a bottle — went from a viral sensation to a cautionary tale about the importance of FDA approval. Followers who wanted to support Pii’s culinary entrepreneurship, sample the taste sensation and create eye-catching TikTok content of their own received bottles that had opened in their packaging or contained rancid-smelling product. The problem (or one of them, anyway) is that Pii uses milk as an ingredient, so the sauce needs to be refrigerated, but it’s being sent out in plastic sleeves, without any mechanism for keeping it cool during transit.
The shoddy labeling also gives a sense of how much went wrong here — “vinegar” is misspelled, and the bottle supposedly contains 444 tablespoons, roughly equivalent to 6.5 liters. Chef Pii has been called out by others in the food industry for everything dangerous or misleading about her Pink Sauce production and marketing, and the furor escalated until she was forced to post the inevitable apology video. “I am only human, I am not perfect,” she says before going on to announce plans to have the sauce lab-tested and sold in grocery stores.
In a resonant coincidence, the Pink Sauce drama climaxed right as Daily Harvest, a service that delivers frozen foods, announced the findings of their investigation into its recalled French Lentil & Leek Crumbles, which had sickened hundreds and sent dozens to the emergency room — including 30 people who had their gallbladders removed, prompting lawsuits. The culprit, they concluded, was tara flour, a higher-protein alternative to wheat flour made from the seeds of tara trees. But, to look at it another way, this was the flip side to Chef Pii’s breach of trust. Instead of ordering mysterious pink goo from an apartment in Florida, Daily Harvest customers were buying into a bougie fantasy of healthier living through curated “seed to plate” meals supplied by a company whose founder looks like the Elizabeth Holmes of vegetables:
The two businesses — one an innovative small-time scheme with minimal resources, the other a glossy New York startup made to conquer the home meal distribution market — are far more alike than they seem. Both were built up with endorsements from influencers, and both traded on the convenience and fun of food that magically appears on your doorstep. Neither would exist if Americans didn’t have this strange conceit of trying to reinvent the way we eat.
I don’t want to victim-blame here, as the manufacturers are at fault in each case, but guys, maybe go to the supermarket for once? If you need delivery, at least order from a known retailer in the area, not a rando you found on TikTok, nor a lifestyle brand you saw promoted on Instagram! All the food at Trader Joe’s has accurate labels and is far less likely to kill you.
Nobody is compelled, for any reason, to gamble their health on stuff called “Pink Sauce” and “French Lentil & Leek Crumbles,” neither of which even sounds edible. Whether you’re trying to elevate your Wendy’s combo with Pepto-Bismol-colored sludge or pack every kind of vitamin into your weeknight dinner, the mistake is the same. Now I have to endure several days of the intrusive thought that plenty of rubes are still chowing down on Daily Harvest and squirting Chef Pii’s curdled concoction on their sandwiches. My appetite is never going to recover from this.