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Calif. city's bid to close Sriracha plant denied

Posted: November 1, 2013 8:00 a.m.
Updated: November 1, 2013 8:00 a.m.

This Tuesday photo shows Sriracha chili sauce moves along a production line during at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge refused Thursday to order an immediate halt to production of the internationally popular hot sauce Sriracha at a Southern California factory that local residents say is stinking up their neighborhoods with pepper and garlic fumes.

In rejecting the city of Irwindale's request for a temporary restraining order, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien indicated he wasn't given enough time to consider the case.

"You're asking for a very radical order on 24-hour notice," O'Brien told attorney June Ailin, representing the city.

Instead, O'Brien scheduled a Nov. 22 hearing to consider issuing a preliminary injunction.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, Irwindale said it had received "numerous" complaints from residents who say the smell coming from the Huy Fong Foods plant burns their eyes and throats and gives them headaches.

The odor lasts for about 3 ½ months a year, during the California jalapeno pepper harvest season.

The company, which produces Sriracha and two other popular sauces, says it grinds up about 100 million pounds of the hottest California-grown hybrid jalapeno peppers it can find. The peppers are mixed with garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar, with the resulting fumes sucked through a filtration system and out through the roof.

During harvest season, as many as 40 big-rig trucks a day arrive at the 650,000-square-foot plant in Irwindale, a largely manufacturing town of about 1,400 residents.

City officials say complaints started arriving in September, soon after jalapeno harvest season began. Some people downwind have said the effect is like having a big plate of hot peppers shoved in your face.

The harvest season will end in about a week, meaning the smell should be gone by the Nov. 22 hearing — at least until next August.

However, City Manager John Davidson said after Thursday's hearing that Huy Fong officials have told the city they are working on developing a better filtration system that they think will kill the smell by next year.

"And that's good news for us," he said. "We are hoping they do."

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