Korean Kimchi in Parasite Shock

    November 03, 2005 19:03


    The Korea Food and Drug Administration on Thursday confirmed Chinese claims that some Korean-made kimchi are infested with parasites. Mostly made by small manufacturers, the brands have been sold in department stores, hotels and via home shopping channels, and also exported to Japan. The find hits a doubly sensitive spot because it could damage the reputation of a Korean signature dish for whose healthful properties large claims have been made and comes hard on the heels of domestic warnings of parasites in Chinese-made kimchi.

    The KFDA said Thursday it tested kimchi products from 502 local companies and found parasite eggs in 16 brands. The 16 accounted for 4.9 percent of total domestic kimchi production last year.

    The tainted kimchi mainly contained the eggs of roundworm, which lives in dogs and cats. The KFDA assumes the excrement of animals living on farms where cabbage for kimchi is grown was not washed off properly in the production process.

    However, experts say eating kimchi infested with parasite eggs is unlikely to cause serious health problems since the eggs are premature and excreted from the body. Humans are rarely infected by roundworm from animals, and there are effective worm treatments if they are.

    The KFDA also tested 54 Korean-made ingredients for kimchi and found parasite eggs in one brand of salted cabbage. Tests of 165 Korean cabbages showed eight infested with parasites, suggesting the blame lies mainly with cabbage. However, no parasite eggs were found in Chinese kimchi ingredients like cabbage and hot chilli powder.

    The KFDA seized inventories of the tainted kimchi products and ordered the 16 manufacturers to test the remainder of their stock. Half of the 16 tainted kimchi producers earn less than W100 million (US$100,000) a year. One of them, the Namyang Agricultural Cooperative in Hawseong, Gyeonggi Province, has halted operation of its factory.

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