KFDA ramps up ramen recalls

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KFDA ramps up ramen recalls


The Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) urged four domestic ramen manufacturers to recall nine products yesterday as public fears mount over reports that their soup powders contain high levels of benzopyrene.

This expands on its announcement one day earlier that it was asking Nongshim to pull four of its products, including its popular Neoguri noodles, for also containing the carcinogen.

The KFDA said it was not legally enforcing the measure but rather letting the companies adopt it voluntarily as the concentration of benzopyrene was not considered potent enough to harm humans.

Responding to the news, large retailers in Taiwan have already removed Nongshim’s ramen products from their shelves. Korean retailers said they are mulling offering refunds to customers.

Benzopyrene was first found in Nongshim’s Neoguri in June, but the KFDA did not take any action at the time.

The KFDA investigated 30 powder soups from the 10 companies and found concentrations of benzopyrene in 20 of them ranging from 1.2 to 4.7 parts per billion. It is still looking into the remaining nine products, it said.

As there is no official standard for what level poses a risk to people, the debate is ongoing.

The nine products being recalled include six from Nongshim: two kinds of Spicy Neoguri, its Mild Neoguri, Saewootang Cup Noodles and two varieties of Seng Seng Udong.

The others are Dongwon Food’s Dongwon Seng Udong Seafood, Min Food System’s Fish Cake Flavor Noodles and Hwami’s Katsuodashi (or dried bonito).

Of the 6.36 million products subject to the recall, most are already expected to have been consumed, the KFDA said.

“Even though the amount of benzopyrene found in these products is safe enough that they can be consumed every day, we decided to advocate in favor of the recalls to relieve consumer anxiety,” said Sohn Moon-ki, director of food safety at the KFDA.

However, the agency is already taking flak for fanning confusion by flip-flopping on the issue after it gave the same products a green light months ago.

It is now looking into setting up standards limiting the permissible amount of benzopyrene in finished ramen products while also strengthening quality controls.

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]
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