‘Don’t eat fried toothpicks’: TikTok trend sparks health warning


South Korea’s food ministry has urged people to not to eat green, fried toothpicks after TikTok users shared videos of themselves doing so.

Once deep-fried, the toothpicks – made from either sweet potato or corn starch – resemble jade-coloured, skinny curly fries.

free money

Clips showing people eating them have received thousands of likes and shares on social media.

The clips show the toothpicks being cooked in oil and topped with seasoning such as powdered cheese.

“It’s very crispy,” one TikTok user declared.

In a post on X, the ministry of food and drug safety reminded people that the toothpicks’ “safety as food has not been verified”.

“Please do not eat [them],” the ministry added.

More on South Korea

More world news:
Inside the Philippines’ war on drugs
Ukraine war latest as UN meets over Russia plane crash

The dish "Fried green toothpick" which went viral following a social media trend, against which South Korea's food and drug safety authorities have issued warnings regarding its consumption, is seen inside a plastic bag, in Busan, South Korea, January 19, 2024, in this picture obtained from social media. b_chuchu_ / @hee_2458 via X/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Image: Food colouring gives the toothpicks their green hue Pic: b_chuchu_ / @hee_2458 via X/via Reuters

The toothpicks, which are seen as being environmentally friendly and biodegradable, are often on tables in Korean restaurants and can also be used to pick up finger food.

Their colour comes from food colouring used to give the toothpicks a green hue.

According to local media, an ingredient called sorbitol is used – and while it is harmless in small amounts, it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and inflammation if overconsumed.

Online eating shows called Mukbang, which often feature people eating excessive amounts of food or unusual dishes, are popular in South Korea.

It’s been claimed that young children have been requesting toothpick fries as a result.

This is far from the first time that a TikTok trend has sparked a warning from officials or healthcare professionals.

Last year, doctors cautioned people against rubbing castor oil on their eyes, warning that – despite what various viral videos claimed – it is not an effective treatment for dryness, cataracts or poor vision.

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service issued a warning about people using ‘explosion filters’ to create videos in which their appliances appeared to burst into flames.

Their firefighters had responded to a well-intentioned call about a blaze that turned out to be a false alarm.