published Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

City of Irwindale: Odor from Sriracha chili plant a nuisance

LOS ANGELES — The maker of Sriracha hot sauce is under fire for allegedly fouling the air around its Southern California factory.

The city of Irwindale filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday asking a judge to stop production at the Huy Fong Foods factory, claiming the chili odor emanating from the plant is a public nuisance.

City officials say residents have been complaining of burning eyes, irritated throats and headaches and that some people have had to leave their house to escape the smell.

One family was forced to move a birthday party indoors after the strong smell overwhelmed the festivity, Irwindale City Attorney Fred Galante told the Los Angeles Times.

Huy Fong initially cooperated with the city, but talks broke down last week after company representatives denied there was an odor problem, saying their employees worked in similar olfactory settings without complaint, Galante said.

The city, which is about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, is seeking temporary closure of the factory until Huy Fong submits a plan to minimize the smell.

"If they fix it and the odor problems stop, we don't need this order; but so far the odor complaints continue," Galante said.

An after-hours call to the company was not immediately returned.

Huy Fong's green-capped chili bottles are hugely popular and are a fixture at restaurants around the world. The first Sriracha Festival held in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend drew hundreds of fans. The condiment's creator, David Tran, was there sporting a T-shirt that said "I put Sriracha on my Sriracha."

The company had operated out of two buildings in nearby Rosemead since the late 1980s until it opened large factory in Irwindale this year.

All of the chili needed for producing the year's sauce is processed and stored between September and December.

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