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Noodle rule has restaurant owners boiling

October 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Manufacturers are protesting against a state crackdown on safety regulations and noodles supplied to Asian markets. The protest has nothing to do with the way a noodle dish is prepared. It has to do with the way noodles are manufactured.

It isn't a new law. In fact, it's been in the books for years. No one is really sure why inspectors in Northern California started enforcing it but it does have a lot of people in Los Angeles concerned.

The fresh rice noodle is synonymous with Asian cooking. It is a staple ingredient in food from countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam. Now, some fear it could be erased from menus and dinner tables all over the state.

"We depend on fresh noodles," said Jacklyn Sher from the Asian Food Trade Association.

Sher says the fresh rice noodle is being singled out by state inspectors.

"What is the difference between the fresh rice noodle and food like fresh tortilla, bread, croissant, and doughnuts?" said Sher.

According to state health regulations, the noodles should be refrigerated but Sher says fresh noodles need to be stored at room temperature.

"With fresh noodles, we can pull it apart, separate it and stir fry it," said Sher. "It's easy to stir fry and put it in soup. But if you refrigerate it, it becomes sticky."

"You can't say that this is harmful when in fact there's no evidence that somehow it is harmful," said state senator Leland Yee of San Francisco.

Senator Lee helped a news conference Thursday afternoon inside a Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park. He said state inspectors recently cited a San Francisco noodle factory. He is concerned that it could happen in Los Angeles as well.

"If we don't deal with this, then I'm afraid that the heavy hand of those inspectors will come down and literally will shut down these factories," said Senator Lee.

While the state says it does not make any distinctions with ethnic foods, he is trying to rally Asian businesses and restaurant owners to demand a change in the law.

"So my job now is to carve out an exception to that particular rule," said Senator Lee.

None of the noodle manufactures in Los Angeles have been cited.

The state senator is trying to call attention to make changes in the law before factories could be cited and perhaps jobs being lost.

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