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South Korea

Nongshim noodle recall urged over cancer-causing substance

Lawmaker demands action after South Korean authorities take six varieties off the shelves

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 3:19am

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A cancer-causing substance found in Nongshim instant noodles has triggered a product recall in South Korea, but Hong Kong authorities have not followed suit.

The South Korean authorities ordered the recall of six varieties of the noodles, five of which are available in Hong Kong.

They are Nongshim's mild and spicy Neoguri udon, "small bowl" Neoguri cup ramen, Saengsaeng bowl udon and "big bowl" shrimp-flavour cup noodle. The Centre for Food Safety confirmed all five were on sale here but did not order a recall.

The sixth product, not available here, is a "big bowl" version of the Neoguri cup ramen.

The noodles were found to contain benzopyrene, which has been named as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Lawmaker James To Kun-sun urged the government to initiate a recall as soon as possible and to alert the public. "If South Korea ordered a recall, Hong Kong should follow. It is reasonable to have doubts on the noodles' safety, as even their originating country has decided to recall them," he said.

The ingredient responsible for the alert appears to be katsuobushi, or smoke-dried bonito, according to the Korea Times.

It reported that the Korea Food and Drug Administration had told the manufacturer to clear all stores shelves of noodles made with katsuobushi.

"Not only Nongshim's but also other manufacturers' products containing the problematic ingredient will be ordered recalled. We'll also expand inspections of food products made with katsuobushi," the administration's official told the newspaper.

The blame is being placed on a subcontractor Daewang which allegedly supplied katsuobushi containing 10.6-55.6 parts per billion (ppb) of benzopyrene, more than the permissible level of less than 10 ppb.

That discovery dates back to June and the government subsequently detected up to 4.7 ppb of benzopyrene in the six noodle products. But it did not inform the public, saying the detected amounts were too small to do any harm, the Korea Times said.

The authorities said that if people eat one of the six types of noodles, they would consume in 0.000005 micrograms of benzopyrene, while they usually consume 16,000 times more benzopyrene, or 0.08 micrograms, when eating cooked meat.

Following media reports, however, it initiated the recall due to public concern.

Stores in Taiwan have already pulled the products off shelves.

Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety said it was checking with South Korean authorities and the local distributor to see if problematic batches had been exported to the city.

It was also conducting tests on the named noodles as well as other Korean instant noodles.