South Korea has warned the public against the consumption of deep-fried toothpicks, a trend that has gained popularity on local social media.
What’s going on: South Korean netizens are cooking and eating toothpicks made from corn or potato starch. When deep-fried, they tend to resemble curly fries.
Those who join the trend share their experience as “mukbang” videos. These clips have gone viral on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.
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About the toothpicks: Since the toothpicks are made from corn or potato starch and mixed with sorbitol — a sweet sugar alcohol commonly found in fruits — they are considered biodegradable. They are colored green and offered in many South Korean restaurants.
Videos show people flavoring the toothpicks with cheese or other seasonings. “It’s very crispy,” said one TikToker while crunching on them.
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What the government is saying: This week, South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety issued a warning against the trend, stressing that the toothpicks are categorized as sanitary products. When ingested in overly large quantities, sorbitol may also cause diarrhea, vomiting and/or inflammation.
“Toothpicks are categorized as sanitary products, not food, so they have not been confirmed to be safe for consumption,” the ministry said. “We are ensuring the safety in use of sanitary products by setting standards for their components, manufacturing methods and use, but we advise against eating starch toothpicks as they have not been confirmed to be safe for consumption.”
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