If you’ve been around social media, the local news, or late-night talk shows in the last few days, you’ve probably heard something about a supposedly viral TikTok “challenge” that is exactly what it sounds like: cooking chicken in a cold medicine marinade.
News stories about the supposed trend are often accompanied by vomit-inducing photos of raw chicken simmering in dark green syrup. It’s disgusting and, as the FDA recently reminded the public, as toxic as it sounds. But it turns out that Nyquil Chicken wasn’t new or particularly viral, and the FDA’s warning at a strange time may have backfired, making the meme more popular than ever.
First, a little history: as reporter Ryan Borderick in your newsletter garbage dayNyquil Chicken originated as a joke on 4Chan in 2017. The meme briefly in January, where it gained some traction on TikTok before disappearing once again.
Then last week, the FDA inexplicably issued a warning about the dangers of cooking chicken in Nyquil. In an advisory titled “A Recipe for Danger: Social Media Challenges Involving Drugs,” the FDA refers to this as a “recent” 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.
Now, in what we can only hope is a valuable lesson in unintended consequences, we know that it was probably the FDA’s chicken Nyquil warning that took this “challenge” to new levels of virality, at least on TikTok. TikTok has now confirmed that on September 14, the day before the FDA notice, there was only five Search “Chicken Nyquil” in the app. But by September 21, that number had ballooned “more than 1,400 times.” BuzzFeed Newswhich first reported TikTok search data.
TikTok, which recently to limit the spread of dangerous “challenges” and “alarmist warnings” about hoaxes, it 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 undertaking a potentially dangerous “challenge.”
As both BuzzFeed other gizmodo However, there is little evidence that people actually cook chicken in Nyquil, let alone eat it. That’s a good thing because, as the FDA makes very clear, doing so is not only extremely gross, but also highly toxic. But it’s all about why we should all be more skeptical of panic-inducing viral “challenges.”
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at time of publication.