BREAKING NEWS: Senator Janet Nguyen's bill to allow the legal sale of traditional Vietnamese Rice Cakes (Bánh Tét/ Bánh Chưng) passes Senate Health Committee

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Senator Janet Nguyen is proud to announce that Senate Bill 969, which seeks to allow traditional Vietnamese rice cakes (Bánh Tét/ Bánh Chưng) to be sold at room temperature for up to 24 hours, has been unanimously approved by the Senate Health Committee. This approval is a critical first step of many in helping SB 969 become law this year.

“I am overjoyed with the support that SB 969 has received from the Vietnamese-American community of California and my colleagues on the Senate Health Committee,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “As SB 969 moves through the Legislature, I hope that the bill continues to receive the support it needs and that by next year’s Tet celebration we will be able to purchase our traditional rice cakes at room temperature.”  

Historically, Vietnamese have consumed Vietnamese rice cakes at room temperature for centuries. Unfortunately, under current California law, these items cannot be sold at room temperature without facing citations. In an effort to address this issue, Senator Nguyen’s legislation would allow these rice cakes to be sold at room temperature for up to 24 hours provided they display appropriate labels for the presence of potentially perishable ingredients.

During the committee hearing, Senator Nguyen’s bill received testimonial support from Garden Grove Councilmember Phat Bui, San Jose Councilmember Tam Nguyen, and attorney Jenny Do, Chairwoman of the Friends of Hue Foundation. They were joined by dozens of community members from throughout California that filled the committee chambers to express their support for SB 969.

“Today, we are able to purchase these rice cakes, but they are not sold at room temperature, which is the manner in which our ancestors have consumed them for centuries. I am thankful for Senator Nguyen’s efforts to correct a deficient state law that prevents us from preserving our traditions,” said Councilmember Tam Nguyen.

“For centuries now, we have been able to leave Banh Tet and Banh Chung at room temperature for at least a week and serve it fresh. I am thankful for Senator Nguyen’s legislation that seeks to finally make this process legal,” said Councilmember Phat Bui.

“Vietnamese refugees have brought with them cultural traditions that have been passed down for centuries to the more than 100,000 Vietnamese-Americans living in San Jose. Senate Bill 969 will create a necessary exemption in State law for our community to legally practice our traditions,” said Jenny Do, Esq.

SB 969, which has received bi-partisan support and is co-authored by Senator Huff and Assemblymembers Campos, Chang, Kim, McCarty, and Williams, will now head to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a vote. If approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, SB 969 would go into effect on January 1, 2017.