Hot sauce manufacturer Huy Fong Foods cannot ship any more Sriracha and two other sauces it makes until mid-January because the California Department of Public Health has begun enforcing stricter guidelines for the company.
Batches of the company's three sauces, Sriracha, Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek, now must be held for 30 days before they can be shipped to food distributors and wholesalers.
State regulators added the requirement earlier this year after a review of Huy Fong's production process. Because the sauces are ground fresh and not cooked, additional safety measures are required, said department spokeswoman Anita Gore. The 30-day hold helps ensure the sauce is free of harmful microorganisms for the duration of its shelf life, Gore said.
The distribution delay comes amid a heated legal battle with the city of Irwindale, which sued the hot sauce manufacturer over spicy odors that residents say caused a raft of health issues.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled in November the plant must immediately stop any odor-causing productions until experts can identify and mitigate the smell.
At the time, Huy Fong officials did not anticipate production delays because they had finished grinding chilis for the year and simply needed to mix and bottle the sauce.
The company began to comply with the state's hold period this week, said operations manager Donna Lam. After the hold period ends, distribution is expected to continue relatively normally. But businesses further down the production chain are sounding alarms about a shortage and lost profits.
Damon Chu, president of wholesale Asian food supplier Giant Union in Whittier, claims his company could lose about $300,000 in sales. His company buys up to $150,000 worth of Huy Fong Foods products each month.
Giant Union has no inventory to draw on because they ship the sauces continuously to restaurant suppliers across the region. He fears that if his customers can't get the sauce included in their order, they will switch to a different supplier or different product.