Asian noodle makers in California are fighting a state law that requires rice noodles to be refrigerated immediately after they are produced, following a crackdown by state inspectors at a San Francisco company. Local noodle makers tell The L.A. Times that refrigeration goes against a thousand year-old tradition of keeping noodles at room temperature that has not resulted in illness. Refrigeration, they say, is a sure-fire recipe for ruining rice noodles. "The health inspectors don't understand our culture," Tom Thong of Del Monte's Lucky K.T. Noodle Company tells the paper, "if you put the noodles in the refrigerator, it would be ruined."
Though the California Department of Public Health claims," Ethnic foods are not treated any differently than other foods," this marks the second occasion this year that California's ethnic cultures have been targeted for the way foods are prepared to traditional custom. August saw raids on Mexican markets and restaurants in L.A. that sell unpasteurized Oaxacan cheese, again bringing defenses that preparation of the cheese was cultural and in fact, crucial to the identity of Oaxacan food and celebrations.
While we reiterate our own observations that public infections seem scant from consuming rice noodles or Oaxacan cheese, the California Department of Health maintains, "food produced without appropriate temperature controls can result in serious illnesses," while also saying federal charges could be used against the San Francisco-based manufacturer. In L.A.'s Monterey Park, San Francisco State Senator Lelnad Yee fought the law, calling it "antiquated," and stating that "we've got to change the behavior of the inspectors rather than change our culture."
What do you think? Should allowances in public health standards be made for different cultures as long as any potential risk is assumed by the consumer?
Food Fight Waged Over Refrigeration of Asian Noodles [L.A. Times]