A lot of the kimchi I see in stores doesn't say "live and active cultures" like yogurts and kefir. I'm trying to up my probiotic intake, but I'm not sure if all the kimchi I get is helping me towards this end. If a kimchi doesn't list "live culture", does it mean that the culture has been killed by heat or other means?

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    @rumtscho I disagree with the hold here because the question is mostly about whether kimchi sold commercially contains live cultures. That seems to be a valid question about food and doesn't touch on the health or nutrition effects of bacterial intake.
    – logophobe
    Aug 27, 2015 at 13:29
  • @logophobe the way I read it it needs the answer to decide when some nutrient (in this case the bacteria) is in an "active" state, which goes into the territory of bioavailability.
    – rumtscho
    Aug 27, 2015 at 14:50
  • Reading through it again, I agree that we can probably give an answer on the "alive" vs "killed by pasteurization" question. What we can't do is to discuss when a live culture has probiotic advantages and when it doesn't. I edited the question to be more focused on the "live culture" part and reopened.
    – rumtscho
    Aug 27, 2015 at 14:52
  • @rumtscho Looks good to me!
    – logophobe
    Aug 27, 2015 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


At least in the U.S., there is no legal requirement to list "live cultures" or whatever on food labels. Short of contacting the manufacturer, there's no way to know for certain whether or not it may contain live cultures.

Kimchi, like sauerkraut and similar cultured foods, will continue to ferment and change flavor and texture if it has live cultures. Thus, if a manufacturer wants to ensure a more stable product and longer shelf life, they may heat treat (or otherwise process) the food to destroy active bacteria before shipping the product to consumers.

On the other hand, since many people have become interested in "live culture" fermented foods in recent years, manufacturers usually go out of their way to point out when they do maintain live cultures. I'd therefore say it's likely that at least large manufacturers will advertise their "live cultures" if present. If there's no such description on the product or on the manufacturer's website, it's more likely (though not certain) that the product has been treated in some way to extend shelf life and does not contain live bacteria. For smaller and/or local producers, you probably will need to ask directly about their processing.

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    Around here, there is stuff shipped up from Texas labeled Kimchi, with the word faux - in tiny letters. It may have been packed and sterilized, but once home in a fridge, it certainly starts to bubble and ferment again. Give it a week or two, and it tastes like the home made stuff, but without the bok choy. Aug 29, 2015 at 2:00

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