The factory that makes the original Sriracha hot sauce says it's pausing all shipments for more than a month as a result of state regulations, a spokeswoman for Irwindale-based Huy Fong Foods told the Weekly.
"There's nothing wrong with our products," she told us. "We're just following federal and state regulations."
The embattled Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale says it's having to hold shipments of its beloved Sriracha, Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek hot sauces for 30 days per government regulations.
We called the state Department of Public Health and spokesman Ron Owens several times to get some clarification about this, but were told that he was busy on the phone.
The company has been battling the city of Irwindale, which unsuccessfully pursued a lawsuit that attempted to get the operation to shut down after city officials said they received complaints about the smell of chili in the neighborhood.
A judge earlier this month ordered the factory to stop stinking up the place -- but stopped short of forcing a shutdown.
It's a moot point for now, however, because the smell-causing, chili-crushing season is all over -- until next fall.
Huy Fong Foods CEO David D. Tran said this controversy is being driven by a real estate deal with the city that turned sour.
He says Irwindale actually wooed Huy Fong Foods to town a few years ago and provided a nice piece of land. The deal was that Huy Fong would pay $250,000 a year in interest, sort of like rent, and then pay off the parcel with a balloon payment at the end of the 10-year deal.
However, Huy Fong got a bank loan and decided to purchase the property early, thus depriving the city of millions via those annual payments.
[Update at 5:09 p.m.]: California Department of Health spokeswoman Anita Gore said in a statement sent to the Weekly that this kind of requirement -- a 30-day hold on products that use means other than heat to kill microorganisms -- has existed for years but that it was recently modified in a way that now applies specifically to Huy Fong's hot sauces.
We can imagine that the acidity in Sriracha will kill all the little bugs that the state is worried about, but the regs say that a 30-day hold is required just to make sure that the stuff is safe before you get to squeeze the bottle.
Here's Gore's whole statement:
Huy Fong Foods is required to hold their product for thirty days prior to distribution. The regulations outlining this process have been in existence for years, but the modified production requirements were established for the firm this year. The modification occurred as a result of the review of the process they use to produce their sauce. The California Department of Public (CDPH) determined that a hold time was necessary to ensure an effective treatment of micro-organisms present in the product.
CDPH is the regulatory agency responsible for the safe manufacture of food products in California. The change was necessary to ensure the product is safe throughout its entire shelf-life. Generally speaking, acidified foods that are not prepared using a thermal process (heat step) must use an alternative method of controlling microorganisms that may be present in the food product. Holding products for a period of time at a specified pH level is one method of controlling those microorganisms.
Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations Part 114.80 (a) (1) provides the authority to establish the appropriate scheduled process.
A scheduled process is the process that is adequate for use under conditions of manufacture for a food in achieving and maintaining a food that will not permit the growth of microorganisms having public health significance. It includes control of pH and other critical factors that may be established by a competent process authority. We cannot go into further detail about their process, as it is a trade secret and cannot be divulged.
These federal regulations apply to all food manufacturers throughout the country.