For Your Safety, Stop Believing This Hot Sauce Myth

We slather it on our buffalo wings, submerge our tacos in it, and watch celebrities eat progressively spicier hot sauces on shows like "Hot Ones" (via YouTube). Hot sauce, without a doubt, plays a key role in various cuisine and remains a popular choice as a condiment. As of 2022, over 2,000 Instacarters were surveyed, revealing that 74% of Americans love to top off their food with some sort of hot sauce, per The Food Institute.

However, hot sauce is not just a flavorful addition you can use — but it also comes with a slew of other benefits. Healthline states that because hot sauce is made with chili peppers that contain capsaicin, the mixture helps with things like pain relief, boosts your metabolism, decreases inflammation, and may even help prevent cancer.

But even with all these health benefits and its punch of flavor, hot sauce isn't all-powerful when it comes to shellfish, especially oysters. And combine that with the fact that there are common mistakes you can make with oysters, you don't want to add this one to your list. Here's the common misconception about hot sauce you should be aware of. 

Hot sauce doesn't kill bacteria on raw oysters

If there's one thing you shouldn't believe about hot sauce, it's that it has the ability to kill bacteria on shellfish. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration reports that raw oysters can carry Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, potentially deadly to any and all who accidentally consume them. 

The myth that hot sauce "kills everything" is false, and the FDA informs us that hot sauce has just as much effect on harmful bacteria as water, which is to say none. So while the condiment can salvage a bland meal, it cannot completely kill Vibrio vulnificus. 

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, Vibrio vulnificus cells diminished after soaking raw oysters in tabasco for 10 minutes (a significant amount of time that few, if any, people will wait to eat their seafood); however, there was no significant decrease in bacteria and the amount left on the shellfish would still be harmful to those ingesting them. 

In "Pathogenic bacteria in our ocean's shellfish," published by the Microbiology Society, author Aoife Boyd writes that when it comes to shellfish, the only way to kill bacteria is by thoroughly cooking the seafood (via NUI Galway). So, be sure that your shellfish are fresh, and never assume that hot sauce will burn out any of the truly harmful bacteria that can be present in your food. You might feel the heat, but germs won't.