Ethylene oxide (EO) is widely used as a fumigating agent for spices to increase the shelf life of products. Residues of EO can be found in soup powders contained in an instant noodle package because various kinds of spices are used to make the powder that turns hot water into tasty soups. EO and its metabolite 2-chloroethanol (2-CE) can have mutagenic and carcinogenic effects.
The EU tightened regulations on imports of instant noodles to filter out noodles with EO and 2-CE residues found in soup powders in February 2022. Popular South Korean instant noodles including the Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen made by Samyang and Shin Ramyun made by Nongshim were also included in the EU's regulated products list. Between 2019 and 2021, the export volume of Ramyeon products to the EU countries increased by an annual average rate of 39.5 percent. However, the growth rate dropped by more than 50 percent after the import restrictions by the EU.
South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said that since the ban on imports of instant noodle products into the EU countries, the South Korean government had accepted the EU's request for various test results and certificates for the residues of EO and 2-CE in instant noodle products made in South Korea. As a result, the EU decided to resume the imports of popular K-Ramyeons.
Boosted by the global popularity of South Korean cultural content including K-pop and films, exports of Ramyeon soared 20 percent on-year to a record high of $71.5 million in March 2022. China was the largest importer with some $19 million. The United States was the second-largest with $9.7 million, followed by Japan with $5.7 million and Thailand with $2.9 million. Exports to Russia stood at $540,000, down 58 percent from a year ago.
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