By Frank Shyong
1:50 PM PST, December 11, 2013
This post has been corrected. See note below for details.
Sriracha hot sauce manufacturer Huy Fong Foods cannot ship out any more sauce until mid-January because the California Department of Public Health has begun enforcing stricter guidelines for the company.
Their three sauces, Sriracha, Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek, now must be held for at least 30 days before they can be shipped to food distributors and wholesalers, the company confirmed Wednesday. It's not clear whether the hold is a new requirement. The Department of Public Health did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The production 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 Superior Court judge ruled in November the plant must stop any odor-causing productions immediately until experts could identify and mitigate the smell.
But 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. Sauce suppliers will not be able to restock until mid-January.
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 Food products each month.
They have 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.
"We have already received more than 30 angry phone calls today," Chu said. "It drives me crazy because this is the first time we have been in this situation."
Whiting Wu, the manager of East Coast supplier Summit Operations Corp., says Huy Fong's sauces are a "very significant part" of the business. His company supplies wholesalers, grocery stores and restaurants throughout the eastern half of the United States, and demand usually increases during cold winter months, he said.
"We'll lose money," Wu said. "Their sauce is not easily replaced."
[For the record, 6:40 p.m., Dec. 12: A previous version of this post stated the hold is for 35 days; it is for 30 days maximum.]
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