CHINA: Health officials in China have raised alarm over a concerning trend sweeping through the younger demographic: the consumption of deep-fried starch toothpicks, a craze inspired by a viral South Korean food trend.
Concerns were voiced after reports surfaced indicating that youngsters across mainland China were adopting the habit, following its popularity surge in South Korea.
China Central Television news (CCTV) highlighted parental worries regarding potential health risks associated with this newfound obsession, South China Morning Post reported.
The process involved in creating these toothpicks was revealed: starch toothpicks are dyed green and then deep-fried in hot oil along with various spices.
Originating from South Korea, the trend gained traction on live-streaming platforms featuring content creators indulging in unconventional culinary experiences.
Its subsequent dissemination on social media giants like TikTok and Instagram amplified its reach, with short videos showcasing individuals frying the toothpicks to a crisp before seasoning them with cheese or spicy powder, garnering thousands of views and shares.
Despite the perception of tastiness and healthiness attributed to these toothpicks, they are composed of sweet corn and potato mixed with sorbitol, a sugar substitute known to cause adverse effects such as bloating and flatulence.
SK’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety warns against eating it
Responding to the escalating trend, South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) on 24 January issued a stern warning via social media platforms, urging the public to abstain from consuming these “deep-fried toothpicks,” emphasizing their non-edible nature and lack of safety verification.
Clarifying their stance, the ministry explained that starch toothpicks are intended solely for sanitary purposes, akin to disposable cups and straws, and are thus exempt from food safety regulations.
— 식품의약품안전처 (@TheMFDS) January 24, 2024
Food colouring is used to impart the distinctive green hue to these environmentally friendly and biodegradable toothpicks, crafted from sweet potato or corn starch, commonly used in South Korean eateries and even utilized as serving utensils for finger foods.
Needless to say, the popularity of this trend highlights how much people enjoy watching online shows about eating, especially in South Korea, where ‘Mukbang’ culture is all about showing off big meals and unusual foods.
As health concerns mount, authorities in both China and South Korea are doubling down on efforts to deter the consumption of these potentially hazardous toothpicks, underscoring the importance of informed dietary choices in an era dominated by viral food trends.
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