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LPPOM MUI

Is Instant Topoki Halal? Local Delicacy Rice Cake of South Korea

By: Irma Rosiana Elizabeth — Auditing LPPOM MUI

Korean drama and music is currently being loved by the Indonesian people, especially among young people. Interestingly in every drama and program broadcast by Korean TV, it always introduces South Korean culture and food. Korean TV packs the program so well, one of which is by displaying Korean food so that it looks delicious. This made Indonesian people curious to take part in tasting Korean specialties. One of the foods that is currently hype among Indonesian youth today is Tteokbokki, which Indonesian people commonly know as Topoki. Tteokbokki is a food made from glutinous rice flour so it is also referred to as a chewy-textured rice cake. A slightly tasteless, but very tasty served with spicy sauce.

Food industry players in Korea see this as a separate business opportunity. They make instant Korean food that can be enjoyed by Indonesian people without having to come to Korea. But then questions come from consumers in Indonesia, is instant Korean Tteokbokki halal? Before examining the material contained in instant Tteokbokki, the author tried to trace the data from the LPPOM MUI website (the Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics, the Indonesian Council of Ulama) through www.halalmui.org and it turned out that there was already an instant Tteokbokki from Korea that already had the MUI Halal Certificate.

Recently, the topic is being discussed, instant Tteokbokki products from Korea that already have the MUI halal certificate contains ethanol. Does this mean the rice cake is not halal? According to Sang-Do Ha (2012) rice cakes are foods with high water content and water activity (aw) of more than 0.85 which are potentially contaminated with aerobic bacteria (bacteria that grow well in environments that have oxygen), fungi, coliform, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Clostridium perfringens. So rice cakes are categorized as Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHF) or potentially dangerous foods if the process quality control is not carried out by the producer. Rice cake producer companies use ethanol to prevent microbial growth.

Ethanol is used by spraying or dipping, after boiling and forming rice cakes. The ethanol used has been diluted with water to an ethanol solution with a level of 0.5% which is used as a helping material for the process of preserving rice cakes so as to avoid microbial contaminants. Then the next process is drying so that the rice cake is dry.

According to President Director of LPPOM MUI, Muti Arintawati, ethanol can still be used in the production process of halal products if the source of ethanol is not from the results of the khamr fermentation industry or produced synthetically. The latest MUI fatwa No. 10 of 2018 concerning Food Products and Beverages Containing Alcohol/Ethanol states that only ethanol originates from khamr which cannot be used for halal products because they are haram and unclean. If the product already has a halal certificate, MUI means that it has been ensured that the source of ethanol does not originate from khamr, so are other halal critical points found in instant Tteokbokki.

If observed in the packaging label of instant Tteokbokki on the market, ethanol (or in labels listed in alcohol in general language) is included in the ingredient list even though the function of alcohol used is as a process auxiliary material. This is based on BPOM Regulation No. 31 of 2018 concerns of Processed Food Labels. In the regulation, a list of ingredients on the label includes raw materials and food additives, including process auxiliary materials. In addition, BPOM Regulation No. 31 of 2018 also stipulates that processed foods with alcohol use must include the alcohol content used. So that the ethanol content listed in the labeled material is not a residue on the product.

In addition to ethanol, there are still critical points of other ingredients that need to be observed by consumers. According to Deputy Director of Muti Arintawati’s LPPOM MUI, there is use of emulsifiers such as Glycerin fatty acid ester in the manufacture of rice cakes. Glycerin fatty acid esters are produced from glycerol and natural fatty acids, which can be sourced from vegetable or animal sources. In addition, the sauce used in instant Tteokbokki is a gochujang -based sauce, which is fermented chili with the addition of additional ingredients such as MSG and seasonings. These materials have a critical point in terms of halalness. For this reason, Muti Arintawati reminding everyone, always pay attention to the halal logo if anyone would consume a product. 

Reference: 

  • The latest MUI fatwa, No. 10 of 2018 concerning Food Products and Drinks Containing Alcohol/Ethanol 
  • Drug and Food Control Agency Regulation Number 31 of 2018 concerning Processed Food Labels 
  • Sang-Do Ha, Se-Hee Jeong, Song-Yi Choi, Joon-Il Cho, Soon-Ho Lee, In-Gyun Hwang, Hye Jin Na, Deog Hwan Oh, Gyung-Jin Bahk. 2012. Microbiological Contamination Levels in the Processing of Korea Rice Cakes. J. Fd Hyg. Safety Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 161~168. 

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