Why Are Koreans Eating Toothpicks? Authorities Issue Warning


Recently, Korean social media has been abuzz with a new food trend of eating toothpicks, raising many alarms.

A Korean YouTuber trying out fried toothpicks | @Du_man_/YouTube

In particular, South Korean influencers appear to be obsessed with a type of green-colored toothpicks that they have been eating in different ways. Some of the popular recipes involve frying them and dousing them in seasoning or boiling them and consuming them like instant noodles. One of the most popular recipe videos involving these toothpicks has garnered over 4.4 million views on YouTube shorts, indicating the widespread popularity of the trend.

Screenshot of YouTube Shorts videos displaying various ways of cooking and eating toothpicks | The Korea Herald

The reason behind this absurd trend is the fact that this specific type of toothpick is eco-friendly, being made from starch. However, the CEO of the manufacturing company himself has expressed concern over the rising craze of consuming these toothpicks. In SBS News‘s coverage of the issue, he mentioned that the toothpicks are made with natural ingredients to ensure fast biodegradation and animal safety, in case any stray animal happens to consume it mistakenly.

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However, the company never considered it as a food item for humans and, hence, has not done any relevant testing to check how safe it is for the purpose. The CEO warned that there is no knowledge of how eating these toothpicks in large quantities might affect human health.

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The main ingredients that go into making these toothpicks are mainly cornstarch or sweet potato starch, sorbitol sweetener, and food coloring. Though these ingredients are safe to eat, the manufacturing process of the product is not subjected to the same safety standards as food items, as it is qualified as a sanitary product.

The main ingredients of the starch toothpicks | SBS News

So, while these toothpicks might not cause any harm to the body if consumed accidentally, it does not mean that they are safe to eat as regular food. In fact, experts have said that consuming too much sorbitol, one of the main ingredients in the toothpicks, can cause inflammation of the human digestive tract and cause symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

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The concern over netizens growingly showing interest in eating toothpicks prompted the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to issue an official warning against it on January 24.

Warning issued by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety | SBS News

SBS News also urged netizens to stay away from trying out this unsafe food trend, highlighting that the manufacturer already warns users against eating them right on its packaging.

“Do not eat” written on the toothpick packaging | SBS News It is the latest popular social media trend. 

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