The FDA released a statement on September 15 asking people to stop boiling their chicken in NyQuil.
The FDA warning about the bizarre recipe may have unwittingly popularized the trend.
In TikTok data supplied to BuzzFeed News, search increased by 1,400% after the warning.
The FDA issued a statement imploring people to please stop boiling chicken in NyQuil on September 15, but the warning may have unintentionally stoked interest — and a 1,400% increase in searches — for the strange TikTok trend.
NyQuil chicken, which originally dates back to 2017 and the troll-happy message board 4chan, has been making the rounds again on TikTok and Twitter in recent weeks.
In its warning, the FDA mentioned a "social media video challenge" and warned against the risks of cooking chicken in the cough medicine. There have been no known hospitalizations or deaths from the recipe. However, consuming the #sleepychicken could cause liver damage and muscle breakdown — even inhaling the vapor could cause sickness, the FDA warned.
TikTok has removed videos that show users pouring NyQuil over chicken breasts, and searches for the term currently generate a resource page on hoaxes and dangerous challenges. On some of its remaining videos, mainly critiquing #sleepychicken, TikTok has added a warning that reads: "Participating in this activity could result in you or others getting hurt."
But government warnings may have forced the otherwise obscure joke into a brighter spotlight. According to data TikTok sent BuzzFeed News, the app registered five searches for NyQuil Chicken on September 14, the day before the FDA's warning; on September 21, it counted 7,000 — an increase of 1,400%.
"Once it has that certain degree of volume or attention, basically you are making this more a real thing than it truly is," Janet Yang, a communications professor at the University at Buffalo, told The New York Times. Similarly, concerns about a "slap a teacher" TikTok challenge stirred nationwide panic in 2021 over a trend that was never real.
However, it's worth noting that users typically initially discover videos through the app's FYP — not through search — and media coverage naturally tends to generate related searches. And while the majority of TikToks currently on the app disproportionately show people mocking NyQuil chicken, the platform reportedly removed dangerous videos, making it difficult to determine how many videos were actually made.
TikTok did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
While an unfamiliarity with digital platforms such as TikTok has led to unnecessary panic in the past, concerns about dangerous digital "challenges," particularly related to people ingesting substances, aren't unfounded. Digital trends like the 2012 Cinnamon Challenge, 2018 Tide Pod Challenge, and 2020 Benadryl Challenge have ended in fatalities or hospitalizations.
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