WATCH: South Korean health officials warn against viral ‘deep-fried toothpick’ trend

“Their safety has not been verified,” South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety says

 This video shows green starch toothpicks being fried and seasoned. — Reuters via X/@hee_2458

South Korean health officials are warning the public not to eat deep-fried toothpicks after social media videos of the controversial practice sparked controversy.

“This is not a product to eat,” the East Asian country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety wrote in a recent public service announcement (PSA) posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Their safety has not been verified,” it added.

The bizarre food trend involves frying oral hygiene accessories in oil, puffing and corkscrewing them like curly fries, as seen on viral TikTok, Instagram and YouTube videos, then adorned with powdered cheese and other seasonings, The New York Post reported.

One YouTube creator described their flavour similar to “rice cakes” in a video.

A person holds a “Fried green toothpick”, in Busan, South Korea, January 19, 2024, in this picture obtained from social media. — Reuters via X/@hee_2458

This practice might seem like a symptom of pica, a condition characterised by eating inedible objects.

However, toothpicks in South Korea are made using corn or potato starch mixed with sorbitol, a sugary alcohol found in fruits, which acts as a natural laxative.

It’s perfect for satisfying one’s sweet tooth, unlike toothpicks in the United States which are characterised by eating inedible objects.

These eco-friendly toothpicks are biodegradable and water-soluble, similar to dissolvable packing peanuts. The use of food colouring gives them a green hue, commonly used in South Korean restaurants to eat finger foods.

Health officials caution against consuming dental utensils, despite their eco-friendly attributes, as they have not been approved for human consumption.

The latest craze is part of a larger trend called “Mukbang videos,” in which gluttonous gastronauts eat excessive amounts of exotic foods for social media clout.

The Chinese government banned these hedonistic displays in 2021 to discourage food waste.

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