The FDA may have unintentionally made ‘Nyquil Chicken’ go viral on TikTok

If you’ve been around social media, local news, or late-night talk shows in the last few days, chances are you’ve heard about a supposedly viral TikTok “challenge” that sounds exactly like this: boil chicken in a marinade of cold medicine.

News of the supposed trend is usually accompanied by vomit-inducing photos of raw chicken simmering in dark green syrup. It’s both disgusting and, as the FDA recently reminded the public, just as toxic as it looks. But it turns out that Nyquil Chicken was neither new nor particularly viral, and the FDA’s bizarrely-timed warning may have backfired, making the meme more popular than ever.

First a bit of history: As reporter Ryan Borderick in his newsletter garbage dayNyquil Chicken originated as a joke on 4Chan in 2017. The meme short in January, where it gained some traction on TikTok before fading away again.

Then, last week, the FDA — inexplicably — issued a warning about the dangers of cooking chicken in Nyquil. In a note titled “A Recipe for Danger: Social Media Challenges Involving Medicines,” the FDA calls this a “current” trend. But they don’t cite recent examples, and it’s unclear why they chose to issue a warning more than eight months after the meme first appeared on TikTok.

TikTok blocks searching for that

Screenshot / TikTok

Well, we can only hope that it will be a valuable lesson about unintended consequences, knowing that it was probably the FDA’s warning about Nyquil chicken that took this “challenge” to a new level of virality, at least on TikTok . TikTok has now confirmed that there were as of September 14th, the day before the FDA announcement only five Search for “Nyquil Chicken” in the app. But by September 21, that number had skyrocketed “more than 1,400 times.” BuzzFeed Newswhich first reported the TikTok search data.

TikTok, which recently had to restrict the spread of both dangerous “challenges” and “alert warnings” about hoaxes, is now blocking searches for “Nyquil Chicken.” Searches now direct users to resources that encourage users to “stop and take a moment to think” before taking on a potentially dangerous “challenge.”

Like both BuzzFeed and gizmodo , there is little evidence that people actually cook chicken in Nyquil, let alone actually eat it. That’s a good thing, because as the FDA makes very clear, not only is this extremely gross, but it’s also highly toxic. But all of this is why we should all be more skeptical of panic-inducing viral “challenges.”

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