Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Sriracha 30-day delay in shipping due to state health review

David Tran

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Huy Fong Foods founder and president David Tran with mixing machines at Irwindale Sriracha chili sauce plant.

The month-long delay on shipments of the popular Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce is due to a manufacturing change by the maker. While devoted customers fret about a possible shortage, one distributor says there's probably nothing to worry about.

According to the California Department of  Public Health, Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale agreed to the delay as part of the state's review of a new manufacturing process for the iconic red sauce with the rooster on the label.

 A health department statement said the 30-day hold was the safest way to ensure that acid levels of the crushed uncooked chilis that are the main ingredient in the sauce are high enough to kill harmful microorganisms. When acid is low, toxins that cause food poisoning can grow.

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Anuradha Prakash, who teaches food safety at Chapman College, said health inspectors would use the delay to check that acid levels do not dip into a risky zone.

"They will probably test the product after 30 days to see what kind of microbial counts they get," she said.

The California Department of Public Health said safety concerns are minimal and do not require a recall of products already on the market.

It wasn't clear how the hold would affect the nation's supply of the sauce. The company has said it won't run out by January.

Alex Brown, general manager of Gourmet Imports in Alhambra, said although he doesn't sell a lot of the sauce to his restaurant clients, he would notice if there were a repeat of the Sriracha shortage of 2007.

"My customer service staff started getting all these phone calls from Mexico, and different parts of America, people exporting Sriracha," Brown said. "People (were) calling from other countries trying to order pallets from us."

A spokesperson for the company was not available for comment.

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