Kimchi in tricky spot with New York inspectors


By JANE HAN, Korea Times


Photo courtesy of


NEW YORK ― Apparently, Korea’s quintessential kimchi isn’t as well known as we thought ― or else, New York City officials wouldn’t penalize kimchi makers for the way the fermented cabbage dish is stored.


In the eyes of health inspectors, kimchi is a cold food that belongs in the fridge at all times. If not, it becomes “potentially hazardous.’’


“They just don’t get it,’’ said Lee, a Korean restaurant owner in Manhattan, who didn’t want to disclose his full identity and business name.”It’s hard to get the concept across that kimchi can be kept at room temperature and it won’t kill anyone.’’


He is one of many Korean restaurant owners in New York slapped with violation points and fines.


The city’s health department requires cold food to be stored below 41 degrees, a temperature too cold for kimchi to properly ferment.


Park Shin-soon, owner of Duck Hyang in Queens, tried to explain this to inspectors, only to end up with a $700 fine and violation points.


“The inspector didn’t understand how a cold food can be safe to eat even after being left at room temperature for two to three days,’’ she said, frustrated.


The fines and citations take a direct hit on restaurants’ image as they are required to post on their doors a letter grade of A, B or C based on their inspections.


“Diners don’t want to walk into a restaurant with a low health inspection grade. This is directly hurting our business,’’ says Lee Bun-hyeol, manager at a Korean barbeque.


Echoing these concerns, Korean business owners raised the issue during a forum with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in October 2011.


Restaurateurs asked the mayor and health authorities to loosen inspection rules over kimchi.


One woman, a sanitation consultant for restaurants, even went out of her way to prove why the Korean staple should be an exception to the city’s cold food rule.


Kim Chong-won submitted dozens of samples of different types of kimchi to a lab to determine that the vegetable dish has an acidity level below 4.6, meaning it’s not hazardous.


Health authorities have earlier said kimchi would pass the inspection if owners can prove its acidity is below 4.6. But owners say they don’t have the time or means to conduct the tests.


The Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation moved to further prove this by sending a petition to New York’s Department of Health which includes lab results, stating that kimchi should be an exception to the temperature regulation since its acidity level is below 4.6.


Officials expect a response from the city later this month.


-Article reprinted courtesy of New America Media

Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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