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Asian business owners say food regulation on noodles threatens custom

For 25 years, the El Monte-based Kim Tar noodle factory has been making fresh rice noodles to supply hundreds of Asian restaurants and supermarkets in Los Angeles and around the country.

But a state law requiring manufacturers to refrigerate the pasta instead of allowing it to be stored at room temperature according to custom threatens to wipe out this popular Asian food staple from the American menu, critics say.

“The health inspectors don’t understand our culture,” said Tom Thong, owner of Kim Tar, the noodle factory. “We’ve been eating it this way for thousands of years and we’ve never had a problem. Everyone from Southeast Asia knows that if you put the noodles in the refrigerator it would be ruined.”

The issue first came to light when a San Francisco noodle factory was recently cited by state inspectors for violating the law, which states that such food should either be kept at or below 41 degrees or at or above 140 degrees.

Now California State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and a group of Asian business owners have joined forces to demand a change in the law. They plan to hold a news conference this afternoon at a Monterey Park restaurant to rally support.“Sometimes our laws are not necessarily fair and not necessarily embracing of our diversity,” said Adam J. Keigwin, chief of staff for Yee. “This is something we need to address.”

But health officials say it’s a simple matter of public safety.

“Ethnic foods are not treated differently from other foods,” said Ralph Montano, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. “Food produced without appropriate temperature controls can result in serious illnesses.”

-- Ching-Ching Ni

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Comments () | Archives (38)

“Ethnic foods are not treated differently from other foods,” said Ralph Montano, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. “Food produced without appropriate temperature controls can result in serious illnesses.”

What about when it will ruin the food and deem the food inedible? Rice noodles and, say, pasta noodles are not the same.

Another example of government idiocy at work ...

Well this isn't China so maybe they should reformulate the noodles so that they can be refrigerated. After all here in the USA we have the capabilities of refrigeration and don't need to sell allll the noodles in one day. They should adapt to our ways not us adapting to their ways.

What a dumb law. I would expect that the DPH of California has more to worry about than the temperature of dough. Everyone knows that asian people have been making noodles for thousands of years. How is it now that there is a health concern? We should be more concerned about the false additives and sugar that is killing us.

I agree that ethnic foods should not be treated any differently from other foods. Would you rather wait until an epidemic occurs? This is a very serious matter.

“Ethnic foods are not treated differently from other foods,” said Ralph Montano, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. “Food produced without appropriate temperature controls can result in serious illnesses.”

Perhaps DPH could document just how many outbreaks have been traced from thousands of daily violation of this rule in the preparation of noodles. If there is a problem there will be victims. It's not as if there's no evidence, one way or another.

This is idiotic. No where does the article state people have become ill by eating these noodles. So, why is the govt. worried about this? Waste of time! Go after those who are serving food that are causing health problems.

QUOTE: “The health inspectors don’t understand our culture,” said Tom Thong, owner of Kim Tar, the noodle factory.

Here's the problem: "our culture" Has anyone pointed to Mr. Thong that there is an American culture. You know. The one that passed food safety laws about a hundred years ago.

This is the problem with multi-culturalism. It doesn't work. There has to be one agreed-upon culture that everyone adheres to. If you insist on doing things the Chinese way, go to China. If you're willing to adapt to the American way, then great. Please stick around and tell us what you know.

But if you simply want to ignore or supplant our way, then the nation truly has existential problem and threat.

Peking Duck Wars

In 1982, Assemblyman Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) introduced legislation to permit the sale of Chinese roast duck, though its preparation didn’t conform to then existing law, which required restaurant foods to be kept or displayed at temperatures not higher than 45 degrees or lower than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The bill was signed into law by then-govenor Jerry Brown.
“It seems ridiculous that government should waste money telling Americans how to cook food when Chinese have been preparing roast duck for 5,000 years, and hope to do so for another 5,000.” (Art Torres)

“Ethnic foods are not treated differently from other foods,” said Ralph Montano, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. “Food produced without appropriate temperature controls can result in serious illnesses.”

--I would like public health to explain why human-feces contaminated produce are not kept at 140 to kill bacteria. And please explain why it is OK for some businesses to boost profits by endangering human lives by using cheap shortcuts (unmonitored mexican-grown produce), and NOT OK for others who have been producing foods in safe manner for thousands of years to continue doing so?

Is it just me or is the stupidity of this agency only exceeed by it's inflexibility. This has the look of just blind CYA.

@ Cassandra...wow, what are culturally ignorant comment. For starters, the noodles are a staple in several Asian cultures, not just Chinese cuisine. And the fact that the Americans who consume these noodles (including people who are not of Asian descent) live here should not mean that the need to change their recipe. Rice noodles wouldn't be rice noodles if they were refrigerated.

I'm sure some kind of acceptable compromise can be made between the DPH and the noodle makers. But statements like "They should adapt to our ways not us adapting to their ways" are incredibly arrogant, unhelpful, and unAmerican!

Cassandra,

That is a truly ignorant comment and you clearly know nothing of other foods or cultures. It has nothing to do with refrigeration being available or not available. "reformulate the noodles"!

Cassandra, are you saying the Chinese should put corn-based additives and preservatives into their noodles just so they can keep them in the refrigerator? You're kidding, right?

Uh, am I mistaken or isn't is a Vietnamese noodle restaurant? Anyways, I think the better analogy is to sushi. Sushi is raw fish and while it is required to be kept below a certain temperature, it is still uncooked meat. The difference is that while sushi is widely accepted into the main stream, rice noodle preparation is not as widely known. Keeping rice noodles cold is similar to forcing sushi chefs to "cook" the sushi prior to serving.

There are almost 200 countries and countless cultural customs in the world. It's pig-headed to think that any one of them "right" and another is "wrong".

But in all practical terms, what people like Cassandra don't understand is that, if you refirgerate rice noodles, a huge chunk of Asian menus and some of my favorite dishes are ruined. Rice noodles become stiff and their taste changes when you refrigerate them. And I have never gotten sick off of them either. No one ever does!

Maybe the USDA should make us all refrigerate our bananas too! Food safety, you know!

In these cases, regular sanitation should be required, not refrigeration.

You may have been "eating it this way for thousands" of years but people have been getting sick from tomaine for thousands of years. Dead men don't talk.

Geesh, CA! These are RICE noodles (rice flour and water), not EGG (wheat, egg, salt) noodles. No need to refrigerate them. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice_noodles) Shall we freeze all flours now??? There is nothing to spoil in rice noodle products.

There has to be one agreed-upon culture

Hey Jason, is this "culture" the Quaker, anti-sex, pro-witch burning one, or the Mormon one, or the pro-slavery one. I mean the US is SOOO homogenous. (oops, I used a term with homo in it--does that offend "your" culture).

In defense of Jason - that's right pal multi-culturalism clearly does not work IN FOOD. We should ban everything that the native americans did not eat. Why on earth would anyone want to eat foreign foods like beer, sausages or pizza or even sandwiches?? Who are these freaks? Surely not this acorn and pemican-chewing Jason character.

Why can't we prosecute these food terrorists from destroying the purity of our "American" food culture. Surely there are laws to protect us from food terrorism? Just think what CHAOS whould ensure, if people could actually free to eat whatever they wanted -- that is SO fundamentally unamerican and would completely destroy our "pure" American culture. Perhaps we should follow the French lead and ban everything non-"American" -- it seems to be working really well for them...

cassandra,

You are an idiot. Here in America, there is a "national"food day nearly every day. For example, National Creampuff Day or National Greasy Foods Day. We (myself included) are a nation composed of numerous overweight people who need to get on a treadmill and change our diets. Perhaps WE should be adapting some of our practices to emulate other cultures who are thinner, live longer and are less stressed.

And "reformulate" the noodle? Are you stupid? Yes, you are. Do you realise screwing with the basic components of food is exactly what is turning us into a bunch of over-processed food eating fatties?

So go back to Asia and continue the custom

Food safety is designed by calculating the potential growth of microbes in specific kinds of foods over time. It must be cooked to a certain temp to kill the most adverse organism that can live in that particular type of food, and then once cooked, kept at a temperature which will limit the amount of microbial growth. It's that simple. Although, if the food is intended to be consumed on the same day, then I don't see an issue. This is more of a logistical issue for the noodle maker.

"The law" is an ever changing, adapting thing. I'm surprised that the commenters who seem to embrace a certain kind of American-ness, don't seem to understand that. Once, people were property. Once women couldn't vote. Those were once American values. Smart people try to change laws that don't seem quite right. Stupid people say, that's the way it is. But onto the food.

No one, as far as I can tell, has mentioned that these noodles are always cooked in near-boiling water or broth, thus destroying any bacteria. No one eats raw dough. That is, except Americans who eat raw cookie dough.

“Sometimes our laws are not necessarily fair and not necessarily embracing of our diversity,”

I totally agree with this. There are certain foods in our culture which is best at room temperature...rice noodles is one of them. I think after 5000+ years we've know how to cook our own food. Forcing business owners to keep it in the fridge is stripping away the authenticity.

anyone know which Monterey Park restaurant the rally is supposed to happen at? and what time?

People who think like Cassandra and corntrader19 baffle me and make me all the more grateful that I was taught to appreciate other cultures and strive to experience all that the world has to offer. America is great because of its diversity, conforming just for the sake of convenience is never a good thing.

 
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