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Heat wave in a packet – Denmark bans fiery noodles

Isabel Shen/YJI

Copenhagen, DENMARK – Life is just too spicy these days in Denmark, where authorities have banned the sale of three Korean noodle products, deeming them dangerous to consume.

On Tuesday, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration recalled all Samyang Buldak 3 x Spicy & Hot Chicken, Samyang Buldak 2 x Spicy & Hot Chicken and Samyang Buldak Hot Chicken Stew due to what it says are dangerous levels of capsaicin in the sauce. 

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, capsaicin is a “colorless irritant phenolic amide … found in various capsicums that give hot peppers their hotness.”

“Chili in large quantities poses a risk to children and frail adults. Possible symptoms include burning and discomfort, nausea, vomiting and high blood pressure,” said Henrik Dammand Nielsen of the Food Administration, in a prepared release.

The Danish press release said that several children have been hospitalized in Germany previously due to eating extremely spicy chili chips. Nielsen said that the level of chili found in the noodles is greater than in the chips that sent children to the hospital.

A citizen’s complaint prompted the government’s response to the extremely spicy noodles.

“The Danish Technical University Food Institute has now assessed the products and the conclusion is the noodle packets are harmful to health,” said the food administration’s press release.

Annie Berglund, a middle school counselor in Songdo, South Korea, said the Danish response to the noodles “seems to be steeped in alarmism” and questioned whether only Samyang’s products – and not any other exceptionally spicy foods from around the world – are targeted.

Many young people are challenging each other on social media to eat the extremely spicy noodles. This has created a TikTok trend among young adults called “spicy noodle challenge.”

Elsewhere on social media, memes poke fun at the Danish population of being weak and not able to take spice.

Reddit, a popular forum website, blew up with people in multiple forums discussing it. Sorry-Side3000, who claims to be from Denmark, said on r/Spicy, “As a Dane myself i find it absolutely heartbreaking since they’re some of my favourite ramen.”

Others have many feelings about this such as Kensei97, who scoffed, “Pansies.”

Some users are plotting on how to get the noodles into Denmark from Germany.

But Consider-it-done1 said, “I’m from Denmark, and I would never touch any spicy food.”

In Seoul, South Korea, American visitor Vanessa Garcia said it’s odd because people who are consuming such products in Korea are fine when others are not.

Garcia, a student at Lowell High School in Massachusetts, U.S.A., was visiting a school in Seoul this week when asked about the Danish ban on the noodles. She said she had not had the product nor heard of it.

Both Garcia and Berglund said the consumers should assess their own spice tolerance and choose products accordingly.

Berglund, who has lived in South Korea for five years and works at Chadwick International School in Seoul, suggested that the company could warn on the product packaging about high levels of capsicum and against children consuming it.

“As a Midwestern American of Scandinavian descent, I did not grow up with exposure to heavily spicy foods,” said Berglund. “Upon traveling to South Korea and living here for over five years, I’ve become more and more accustomed to and fond of Korea’s spicy dishes, including popular instant ramen.”

Social media trends come and go, Berglund said, making Denmark’s reaction “excessive and reactionary.” She suggested waiting until the craze dies down, along with the upset stomachs.

A spokesman for the Danish food administration said no one has been hospitalized as of the 14 of June.

If establishments continue to supply the product, they will receive a warning and if continued, a fine. After that, it can be reported to the police, according to the food administration.

Noah Haynes is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Denmark. He wrote this story.

Josephine Lee is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from South Korea. She contributed to this story from Seoul.

Damian Nam is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from South Korea. He contributed to this story from Seoul.

Isabel Shen is a Junior Reporter and Senior Illustrator with Youth Journalism International from California, U.S.A. She created the illustration at the top.

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