If you’re on the food side of TikTok, your feed has been filled with tasty viral dishes like baked feta pasta, pesto eggs and salmon rice bowls. But sometimes, some dangerous food trends also make their way onto TikTok. Some pose major food safety risks or could be harmful to your health, while others make far-reaching false medical claims.
We consulted a food safety expert and registered dietitians about some of the most dangerous food trends that have made their way onto TikTok. From Chicken Nyquil to “what I eat in a day” newspapers, here are 10 risky food trends spotted on TikTok.
(Plus, be sure to skip the 8 worst fast food burgers to avoid right now.)
This alarming “sleeping chicken” trend resurfaced in early 2022 after first popping up on social media a few years ago, says Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD, of Street smart food. The idea is to brine or marinate raw chicken in NyQuilan over-the-counter cold and flu medicine, before boiling or frying it.
“Put simply, it’s absolutely not a safe way to consume chicken or cold and flu medicine,” she says. Most of the videos show content creators using more than half a bottle of NyQuil, which is well above the recommended dose, Harbstreet points out. Plus, most chicken looks very undercooked, especially after boil times as short as five minutes, Harbstreet says. This is an obvious food safety issue, as the minimum safe internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, she points out.
From a medical safety perspective, it’s hard to say what the actual amount of NyQuil would be ingested if you were to ingest this chicken, but it most likely exceeds the recommended dose, she says.
Plus, boiling a drug increases its potency, says Rachel Fine, RDN and owner of At The Peak Nutrition. Consumers should use medications as directed on the label, she said.
TikTok is full of tricks to make things better and faster. This is probably how the idea of stick a cheese sandwich in a toaster to give grilled cheese, uh, grilled cheese. However, a rule of thumb when it comes to food safety is to always use equipment as intended, says Janilyn Hutchings, a Certified Food Safety Professional (CP-FS) who works for StateFoodSecurity as a food scientist. “Toasters aren’t designed to double as panini presses, and trying to use one to make a grilled cheese sandwich can start a kitchen fire,” she says.
If you love logging into TikTok for recipes, you might have come across a tutorial that starts with a creator washing his chicken breasts. But that’s actually a no-no when it comes to food safety. “When you wash raw chicken – or any type of raw meat – in your sink, pathogens on the chicken travel on the splashing water and spread to all nearby surfaces, including the sink. and the nearby counter,” says Hutchings. In other words, by washing raw chicken, you could potentially contaminate your sink, counter, and other surfaces (like nearby utensils) with Salmonella or other bacteria, she explains.
While you can spend time cleaning and sanitizing your sink and counter after rinsing chicken, it’s much easier to prevent contamination in the first place by not washing raw chicken.
“There’s no good reason to wash raw meat,” says Hutchings. “Washing does not remove any pathogens and increases the risk of contracting foodborne illness.”
Nacho tables have become the oversized version of nacho platters, with heaps of tortilla chips and toppings spread out on foil and covering an entire table inviting communal grazing. Without plates or utensils, it’s just a cross-contamination event waiting to happen, Hutchings says.
“To be safe, everyone who eats should wash their hands before touching the nacho table, every time,” she says. “For the whole table to be contaminated, it would only take one person forgetting to wash their hands and handling the food on the table with unwashed hands.”
There’s also another consideration, warns Hutchings: When you eat, your mouth produces more saliva, which squirts out when you chew or speak. A nacho table without a sneeze guard is more susceptible to contamination from people crowding around it.
The content trend creators documenting what they eat in a day may not be of concern from a food safety perspective, but it’s still dangerous, says Harbstreet.
“The majority of these videos are highly organized and scripted to show a very idealized eating day,” she says. “The goal of most creators who share them is to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives, but what isn’t shown off-camera is the cost, time and energy it takes to produce a day’s food.”
The videos typically document very healthy, fresh, cooked-from-scratch produce — and there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s a personal preference and within your reach, she says.
“However, the problem is how it’s phrased as ‘if you eat like me, you can look like me,'” says Harbstreet. “It contributes to orthorexic tendencies – the unhealthy obsession with healthy eating – and disordered eating behaviors.”
Energy drinks often make cameos in influencers’ TikTok videos (#SponCon!) While there’s probably not much to worry about if you’re the occasional energy drinker after a restless night’s sleep, excessive consumption can lead to unintended consequences, says Harbstreet.
Energy drinks can contain 200 milligrams or more of caffeine (FWIW: an average cup of coffee contains about 80 milligrams), she points out. Too much caffeine, says Harbstreet, can lead to heart palpitations, nausea and vomiting, tremors, high blood pressure, and, in the most extreme cases, seizures or death.
But caffeine isn’t the only ingredient of concern, she says, because the “proprietary” or “plant-based” blends of some energy drinks include vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids or other undisclosed compounds.
“Because energy drinks fall into the category of supplements, they are not regulated under the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and energy drink brands do not have to disclose the contents of these vaguely described or verifying that the labels reflect what is actually in the box,” says Harbstreet.
By adding drops of chlorophyll in your water is probably harmless, believing claims that your green water may have healing powers takes the trend too far.
Chlorophyll water does not actually use the same chlorophyll compound found in plants; instead, it’s chlorophyllin, says Harbstreet. There are minor chemical differences between the molecules, but the supplemental chlorophyllin used for this trend is similar.
“While there are many health claims, ranging from cleansing your skin to ‘detoxifying your blood,’ there is some debate about its actual effectiveness,” she says. “This trend is probably safe, given that you are consuming the recommended dose.”
However, you may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, or dark stools. If you take a pass for expensive supplements, says Harbstreet. know that you can also get chlorophyll from dark green vegetables like spinach, kale and collards, arugula and broccoli.
Pre-workout is a dietary supplement marketed to gym goers, and you may see fitness influencers in your diet. “recover dry” before going to the gym.
“There are many dangers associated with the TikTok pre-workout dry trend,” says Noah Quezada, dietitian nutritionist and CEO of Noah’s diet.
“Not only could you choke on the supplement, but there’s also the potential for toxicity if not taken in the right amounts.”
For example, caffeine can be dangerous in high doses and can cause heart problems, breathing difficulties and even death. The average amount of caffeine in pre-workouts ranges from 100 milligrams to 400 milligrams, he says, and he points to research published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology which shows that less than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is not linked to any overt adverse effects. “The bottom line is that you need to know the ingredients in your pre-workout supplement and make sure you drink it with water,” says Quezeda.
Will squeezing a lemon into your coffee helps speed up weight loss, as some on TikTok claim? Sorry, there is no evidence to support this theory, Quezeda says. But the Cleveland Clinic points out that this could cause heartburn and, over time, damage your tooth enamel.
When it comes to weight loss potential, lemons have some nutritional value. A lemon wedge contains about 6% of the daily value of vitamin C, Quezeda says. But adding them to your coffee doesn’t have much nutritional significance, he says. “Although coffee increases the number of calories we burn at rest, a cup of coffee will not outweigh a healthy diet and daily physical activity.”
Some on TikTok claimed that putting a clove of garlic in your nostril will clear your sinuses. But it’s a horrible idea, warns Victoria Glass, MD with the Farr Institute.
“Only a doctor should insert an object into your nose for medical purposes,” she says. If you’re looking to clear your sinuses, she recommends a humidifier, saline nasal spray, or warm towel on your face. Save your garlic for the next iteration of baked feta pasta.
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