Kimchi is considered a staple food item in South Korea where consumers have it as a side dish with just about every meal, and the major preparation and production season for this product is usually in November.
In preparation for the 2022 major kimchi production season, South Korean authorities have conducted thorough food safety checks on kimchi and related ingredient manufacturers throughout the country, together with the aid of local governments.
“Together with 17 local governments, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has conducted a food safety and hygiene inspection of various kimchi and related ingredient production companies in November 2022,” MFDS Minister Oh Yoo-kyung said via a formal statement.
“This inspection is conducted on a total of 1,740 businesses that manufacture kimchi and also sell the ingredients for making kimchi, such as the soup/broth, pickled cabbage, red pepper powder, salted fish and so on.
“This has been done so that the public can purchase these products with confidence and peace of mind ahead of the full-fledged kimchi season, and also help to strengthen customs inspections over imported kimchi materials.”
In the past, South Korea has faced issues with kimchi and related ingredient producers over origin adulteration and food safety concerns, particularly after the country became embroiled in controversy with China over the historical origins of kimchi and Chinese pickled cabbage faced rejection all over the country.
Kimchi is also one of South Korea’s biggest food export items, with records from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) indicating that these exports reached a record high value of US$159.9mn in 2021.
Kimchi safety first
As such it is no surprise that MFDS is keen to ensure the safety and reputation of kimchi production within the country, detailing a long list of production steps and ingredients that will be subject to strict inspection under these checks.
“The main contents of these inspections will include ensuring that no spoilt or altered ingredients are used, no unregistered or unmarked ingredients are used, as well as the safety and hygiene in the handling of the ingredients,” said Oh.
“In addition, processed items such as red pepper powder and salted fish, agricultural items such as cabbage, radish and onion, and aquatic products such as oysters will be collected and subjected to intensive checks for standard tests such as pesticide residues and heavy metals.
“For imported foods, agricultural items including Chinese cabbage, radish, garlic, shrimp and other seafood will be tested for pesticides and veterinary drugs during customs clearance, and this will also be intensified for processed items like sea salt, fish sauce, minced garlic and more.”
Major chemicals and contaminants of concern include pesticides, antibiotics, lead, cadmium, bacteria like E. coli, and high preservative content.
“All violators will be penalized accordingly and nonconforming imported products will be recalled and disposed of. Criminal prosecution for intentional illegal actions will be brought upon culprits accordingly,” MFDS added in a statement.