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What are Starch Toothpicks, Why are Koreans Eating Them?

Videos of eating fried toothpicks went viral in South Korea on various social media platforms, raising concerns about the health of youngsters and children.

KJ Staff
Representational Image
Representational Image

In a bizarre chain of events, people in South Korea are eating deep-fried toothpicks as videos of individuals frying and eating toothpicks went viral on TikTok, a micro-vlogging site, with millions of views. The so-called delicacy has raised concerns among parents and has alarmed the government to take action.

The recipe that went viral includes dipping green toothpicks made of corn starch and potato starch in hot oil. A toothpick is a sanitary product often used in restaurants, these are made of starch and are a step toward the conservation of nature. However, many are compelled to fry and eat them along with a spread of dry cheese powder or sauce. Those who tried the dish are calling it tasty.

Parents of most children took to X (formerly called Twitter) to express their concerns over the health implications of this dish. They fear their children may copy the recipe and become bait for many diseases. 

This has propelled the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, South Korea to warn citizens against eating toothpicks citing it as not safe for consumption and “not food”. “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,” the ministry said.

This step was a measure to stop those mukbang videos that promote eating fried toothpicks on YouTube and other social media platforms. Mukbang is an activity that involves individuals creating videos while eating excessive food. These are major influencers among children and teenagers in South Korea.

The toothpicks though taste good according to many, they contain harmful compounds such as sorbitol and alum. Sorbitol is a type of sugar alcohol and alum that is found in baking powder. These compounds can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and inflammation if consumed excessively.

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