The FDA Has Officially Responded to All Those Jokes About 'NyQuil Chicken' on TikTok

The unappetizing viral recipe has been shared online for years... but is anyone actually making it?

Cough syrup; chicken breasts in a baking dish
Photo: Sujata Jana / EyeEm / Getty Images; Getty Images

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just learned what you've been doing — or joking about doing — and it would really like you to knock it off. The FDA has recently posted a warning about a bizarre social media trend that involves both marinating and cooking chicken in over-the-counter cough medicine.

The agency's Consumer Update was prompted by a number of TikTok videos that supposedly show people making chicken that has been liberally soaked in NyQuil or other OTC cough syrups. The FDA says that the unappetizing entree, also referred to as "Sleepytime Chicken," could be dangerous, even if you never take a single bite.

"Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways," the agency wrote. "Even if you don't eat the chicken, inhaling the medication's vapors while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body. It could also hurt your lungs. Put simply: Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realizing it."

The Nyquil-drenched chicken has recently reappeared on TikTok, but it's been joked about in certain corners of the internet for several years. According to Know Your Meme, "Sleepytime Chicken" first appeared on 4Chan's /ck/ food and cooking board in 2017. (It's probably worth noting that the original post was made on April 1).

It has since appeared on Twitter and has been semi-regularly referenced on Reddit. In September 2020, a post on the r/AwfulEverything subreddit included a TikTok for "Sleepytime Chicken" that seemed to be an obvious gag. (The TikToker said that he used "four-thirds" of a bottle of NyQuil, and he uses a hair straightener as tongs to turn the chicken breasts.)

It's both hard to imagine that anyone would take this seriously and yet also easy to believe that someone might. According to Bloomberg, Tiktok has deleted any videos that reference "NyQuil Chicken" or "Sleepy Chicken," and searching for those terms redirects users to an error message that warns of the dangers of online challenges. "If a challenge is risky or harmful, or if you're not sure if it is, don't do it," the page reads. "It's not worth putting yourself or others at risk."

"Content that promotes dangerous behavior has no place on TikTok," a spokesperson for the company told Bloomberg. "This is not trending on our platform, but we will remove content if found and strongly discourage anyone from engaging in behavior that may be harmful to themselves or others."

The FDA also reminds parents to keep all OTC and prescription medications out of the reach of children, and encourages them to discuss "how social media trends can lead to real, sometimes irreversible, damage." Hopefully this entire concept will disappear, and we can get back to arguing about things like the best way to cook non-NyQuil chicken in an air fryer.

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