Safety & Regulation

Month-long cooling off ordered for sriracha maker

13-Dec-2013 - By Jenni Spinner+
Huy Fong Foods, makers of sriracha hot sauce, have been ordered to hold shipments of the sauce for 30 days, due to contamination concerns.
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The makers of a popular sauce, already in hot water with city officials, have been told to cool it on shipments for a month

The California Department of Public Health has issued a 30-day hold on sauces produced by Huy Fong Foods, makers of the chili-based sriracha condiment. The order is intended to give officials time to inspect the bottles and ensure the product is free of harmful microorganisms.

Action after discussions

Anita Gore, deputy director of the Office of Public Affairs for the California Department of Public Health, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the hold comes after months of discussion between the manufacturer and officials. The company, which moved to a new plant in Irwindale last year, had been seeking the department’s permission to use a new manufacturing process.

We directed them to include a 30-day hold to ensure the greatest level of protection against microorganism growth, given the nature of their new process,” Gore said. “We have reached resolution with the company and the owners have agreed to adopt this hold period before shipping, in order to meet federal regulations.”

Gore added that holding of the sauces for 30 days ensures that pH levels are safe. It also eliminates the risk that the sauce could be contaminated with microorganisms.

Showdown with city

Unrelated to the 30-day hold, Huy Fong Foods is locked in a tussle with Irwindale, California residents, who claim emissions from the plant are odorous and irritating. A judge ruled in favor of the city’s suit, forcing the processor to cease production until mitigating the offensive omissions.

The judge-ordered shutdown had not caused an immediate impact on Huy Fong Foods' operations. The company had already completed its annual chili processing season, so all that was left for the year was to mix and bottle the concoction.

However, the state-ordered shipping stoppage will mean the company will not be able to put its products in customers hands for a month.

Better safe than sorry

Department officials pointed out that the sauce has not been found to be contaminated and no recall will be ordered.

However, Gore pointed out, department officials felt that Huy Fong Foods should follow the same precautionary step that many other food manufacturers do, consistent with federal food regulations.

We believe this is a reasonable step to ensure the safety of the product,” she said.

Potential financial impact

The measure might be in the interest of public health, but retailers could suffer financial impact. Because sriracha stock rotates quickly and little is held in storage by distributors, there is no sauce on hand to sell and keep revenue rolling in for those 30 days.

Additionally, shelves barren of sriracha for a month could cause shoppers and foodservice customers to switch to alternative products.

Huy Fong Foods representatives could not be reached for comment.

Related topics: Contamination, Safety & Regulation, Decontamination , Ambient Grocery, Quality, Safety, Hygiene, Processing Technology, US