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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Korea begs citizens to stop eating fried toothpicks for viral trend

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The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety warned citizens against eating toothpicks made of starch as they are “not food” and not safe for consumption, after videos of people eating fried toothpicks went viral online.

“Toothpicks are categorized as sanitary products, not food, so they have not been confirmed to be safe for consumption,” the Food Ministry said in a news release on Tuesday.

The ministry’s announcement comes following a recent trend of “mukbang,” or eating shows, for “starch toothpicks” gaining traction on YouTube and other social media platforms popular among children and teens.

Dozens of search results for “fried starch toothpick” pop up on YouTube.

YouTubers have uploaded videos of themselves making and eating fried starch toothpicks. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
"Toothpick fries," made by frying starch toothpicks in oil, are pictured.[SCREEN CAPTURE]
“Toothpick fries,” made by frying starch toothpicks in oil, are pictured.[SCREEN CAPTURE]

“While watching mukbang on YouTube I saw a video of fries being made out of toothpicks,” a YouTuber says in one video, then proceeds to fry toothpicks in oil.

She then pours sauce onto the toothpicks and eats them on camera, saying the toothpicks are “very tasty.” The video has over 4.4 million views as of Wednesday.

Parents have taken to online forums to express concerns over children participating in the trend.

“I heard there are children asking for toothpick fries after seeing it on YouTube,” one post on a “mom cafe,” or online community of mothers, read.

“The problem is that children can replicate what they see on video,” another post said.

Starch toothpicks are made of either cornstarch or potato starch mixed with sorbitol, alum and artificial coloring.

Sorbitol is a type of sugar alcohol and alum is a chemical compound found in baking powder. They are not harmful when ingested in small amounts, but can cause vomiting, diarrhea and inflammation in cases of overconsumption.

The Food Ministry emphasized that starch toothpicks are sanitary products and not food, thus advising citizens against eating them.

Sanitary products are defined as products used daily that make direct or indirect contact with the body, such as disposable cups, cutlery, straws — or, of course, toothpicks.

“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.

BY MOON SANG-HYEOK, KIM JU-YEON [kim.juyeon2@joongang.co.kr]