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Asian business owners say food regulation on noodles threatens custom

October 1, 2009 | 11:21 am
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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