Sriracha Factory Still Stinks

City lashes at "public nuisance"

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Persistent fumes from the production of Sriracha "Rooster Sauce" have created health hazards and legal disputes in Irwindale, California.     Photo: Swanksalot/Flickr

Sriracha producer Huy Fong Foods can't catch a break. The company's Irwindale, California, factory is once again in hot water with the town's city council, which yesterday voted unanimously to declare the facility a public nuisance. 

Irwindale residents say fumes produced while creating the spicy condiment, famous for putting hot sauce junkies satisfactorily in tears, put them in pain too—involuntarily. The list of complaints is extensive, including irritated eyes and throats, headaches, heartburn, nosebleeds, and an objectionably pungent odor.

The council plans to adopt an official resolution soon, after which Huy Fong Foods will have 90 days to stem odor issues. Air quality tests by the South Coast Air Quality Management District have concluded that carbon filters could solve Huy Fong Foods' odor problems, and the company says it expects to fix the problem by June 1.

Although Irwindale has many bones to pick with Huy Fong Foods, Councilman Albert Ambriz told the Los Angeles Times that the town doesn't want the wildly successful company to leave.

"I respect the fact that they are here. But they know there's a problem and it needs to be fixed," Ambriz said.

Should Huy Fong Foods miss the 90-day deadline, the council declared its right to enter the factory and implement (potentially costly) change itself. Huy Fong Foods' attorney John Tate smells a rat. 

"The city council is determined to assert its authority regardless of the status of the odor remediation efforts," Tate said.

Problems in Irwindale began in October, when the town filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the company for the exact same reasons. The suit led to a partial shutdown of the 655,000-square-foot plant in November, but fume-correlated health problems and hundred-person protests continued. The council's vote this week was meant to underscore the residents' discontent, and a preliminary injunction and trial is scheduled for November 2014.

Many find Sriracha hard to quit, but if you're interested in trying something new, there are plenty of alternative hot sauces that bring the pain but not the court orders.

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