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California town moves against Sriracha hot sauce plant

Sriracha Factory Declared Public Nuisance

(Reuters) - The small Southern California town of Irwindale has opened a new front in its battle against what it says is a pungent, tear-inducing odor from a chili processing factory owned by the makers of Sriracha-brand hot pepper sauce.

The City Council voted 4-0 at a meeting on Wednesday night to authorize staff to prepare a resolution to declare the plant's peppery fumes a public nuisance, and giving Huy Fong Foods 90 days to remedy the situation.

A fifth council member who lives within 500 feet of the plant abstained to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The council is expected to vote on the resolution at its next hearing on April 23, according to a spokeswoman for the city manager's office who confirmed the vote.

Huy Fong's red-colored Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, sold in clear squeeze bottles with a green cap and trademark rooster logo, is one the top-selling condiments in the United States.

Celebrated as the ingredient of the year in 2010 by Bon Appetit magazine, the sauce has inspired cookbooks, a food festival, a movie documentary and even a potato chip flavor.

Irwindale filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong last October saying the strong smell of peppers being crushed at the plant was causing headaches and irritating the eyes and throats of nearby residents, forcing some to remain indoors during the day.

The lawsuit said the company had refused to take corrective action. Huy Fong Foods owner David Tran has said rooftop vent filters at the factory absorb about 90 percent of the chili and garlic odors.

In November, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the hot sauce maker to cease emissions of the fumes but declined to order the factory closed and was not specific about what Huy Fong should do to control the smell.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has performed tests at the facility but found no violation of air quality standards, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the regional agency said.

The air district has suggested carbon filtration as a potential solution. The agency has received some 70 citizen complaints about the plant since November, most from a "handful of households," Atwood said.

The company said it was disappointed with the City Council action and would continue to work with the Air Quality Management District on the matter.

"But at the end, we believe the city will do what they wish to do regardless," the company said.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Dana Feldman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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hacaliguysf April 12 2014 at 9:36 PM

The people that are complaining are the ones that did not get a job there. Time to move to a city that will gladly accept the taxes and business.

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heydoode1 April 12 2014 at 6:39 PM

Jeez .. I thought they stopped production months ago. We were unable to find Sriracha
anywhere in San Diego in January .. except by east coast manufacturers.

I bought my son a Sriracha cookbook for his birthday. Hmmm, I want to get it back and
create some of the recipes.

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Thomas April 12 2014 at 11:02 PM

I suppose I should complain about the cattle ranches near my house because the smell is prevalent whenever the wind blows in my direction. Of course, these ranches have been there for over 80 years and I've only owned my land for the past 10. OR....I should have known about the cattle ranches BEFORE I bought my land. But for the record, cattle ranches smell like.......MONEY! I think I'll stay and I hope that the Sriracha plant gets to stay where they've been for the last 30 years!

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2 replies
Smitty Thomas April 12 2014 at 11:24 PM

If it's humanly possible to fix something any company even farm is obligated to. The problem with a farm is you cant put filter stacks in a cows butt. But you can on a factory. Plus there is a huge difference between pepper spray and the poop smell which is what the factory is essentially putting in the air.

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rothhammer1 Thomas April 13 2014 at 6:45 AM

The plant has only been operating in Irwindale for four years.

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kerrymac85658 April 12 2014 at 8:43 PM

If there is no air quality issue, neighbors who moved there after the business was established should have no say. The airport analogy is apt. Have you ever driven through Gilroy, California? The aura and odor of garlic is strong. Of course, I like garlic and LOVE Sriracha, but the only issues I see I mentioned at the top. If all else fails, I would urge Huy Fong to move to Tucson, Arizona where we appreciate spicy and hot foods of all ethnicities!

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chuckhalper April 12 2014 at 11:03 PM

This may well boomerang on Irwindale. Why? The city approved the plant in the first place back in 2009/2010. Now, we all know that planners, especially in California, have rules and studies (to the high heavens) to ensure compliance.Those proceses include area impact studies as well. The city enticed Tran, the owner, to locate there , and the nature of his business and its operations was... or should have been... fully known... by the city.... before approvals to operate were given. The process of hot sauce manufacture is not a secret and the chance for odors could not have reasonably been a surprise to anyone. As such, and in the absence of AQMD and OSHA remonstrations, Irwindale has effectively breeched the relationship with Tran by reversing their approval. I am no lawyer.... OK jump on me for that......but it seems logical that Tran may have a case against Irwindale, a city that failed to back up ( by virtue of the 4-0 vote) their own prior approval process.

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1 reply
Smitty chuckhalper April 12 2014 at 11:16 PM

Approval is an approval to manufacture not to pollute or disrupt. These poor people are forced inside because of the fumes. Like living being pepper sprayed. The company has a legal and moral obligation to prevent any noxious disruption to the community. In other words they have to be a good reasonable neighbour.

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1 reply
chuckhalper Smitty April 13 2014 at 12:08 AM

I see it differently--The nature of the product to be produced at the plant, as approved by the city, involves the processing of peppers. Approval to operate that plant also involved, or should have involved, knowledge by the city as to how hot sauce is made and the associated environmetal impact of making such a product. This isn't 1938 any more and you just don't build a factory and do whatever you like beyond city oversight... and, you know that....There are rules and regulations to be met, all subject to city planner approvals...including a community impact study-- which is their purview and responsibility. IMO, it was the city planners who had the legal and moral obligation to prevent any so-called noxious disruption to the community, as you termed it. If Tran's production process ( how one makes hot sauce is no secret) did not meet Irwindale's standards, OK, fine-- they should have withheld approval. But, they appoved the business , and now say that business is causing a negative community impact. If they failed in administering their own standards with regard to hot sauce making and its implications, they are at risk. If they changed the requirements and guidelines retroactive to the agreement with Tran, and after Tran's investments, based on their approvals, they are also at risk...IMO

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kp7811 April 12 2014 at 11:08 PM

Move your factory to Vernon. They will welcome you with open arms.
Utilities are a lot cheaper......

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amaruzu April 12 2014 at 4:56 PM

I love this chile. I have a plastic bottle in my refrigerator. How about some type of air filtration system that catches the capsicum oder before it his air outside. Huy Fong is creating a living wage for people that might not otherwise have work. There has to be a solution. Closing the factory down is a bleak alternative in an environment where work is difficult to come by these days.

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pruettee April 12 2014 at 11:27 PM

I agree with jimanded. Pack up and move . It those who work for the factory want to remain with the factory, they can move as well. Look for an isolaed area that is down wind from a town.

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ptml123 April 12 2014 at 4:41 PM

Come on out to Marion County, Florida. The horses won't complain. Great weather, low taxes. The Kingdom of the Sun beckons. By the way, even my local Wal-Mart's Tuong Ot Sriracha shelf is EMPTY!!!!!! Next trip to Sai Gon maybe I can find some substitute.

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twiggymonsterone April 12 2014 at 4:37 PM

I used to live in town that had a large grain processing plant. There was always the smell and the constant down fall of grain dust. But we put up with it, because the company provided a large percentage of the jobs in the area. I don't know about a hot sauce factory, but I'm guessing the jobs are important.

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