A judge has ruled in favor of a California town that complained that the odors coming from the factory making Sriracha hot sauce are so strong and offensive that they have to move away while they are crushing chili peppers.
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The judge decreed that the factory must halt production of "anything that causes odors" in the Irwindale factory -- a move that could endanger next year's stock of the popular hot sauce.
The sauce is so popular that this year Subway sandwich restaurant chain introduced Subway Sriracha Chicken Melt and Trader Joe's released "Trader Joe's Sriracha Sauce" with a dragon instead of the company's trademark rooster on the plastic bottle.
Judge Robert H. O'Brien ruled in favor of the city of about 1,466 residents and is granting a preliminary injunction to Irwindale, which filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods Inc., the makers of the popular spicy chili pepper-based hot sauce.
"[Huy Fong Foods] is to immediately make changes in its site operations reducing odors and the potential for odors" consistent with the city's air quality mitigation measures, the judge said in a court filing on Tuesday. He declined "at this time" to stop the general "operating or using of the property," as requested by the city.
The factory, which was built in 2011, processes fresh chilies for three months out of the year. The chili-grinding for this year was completed from September through November. In its response filed on Oct. 30, the company said the peppers that have been processed are utilized in the product's manufacturing until fresh chili peppers are delivered next fall.
Stopping the chili grinding in the fall would have resulted in "spoilage of peppers in inventory, result in a shortage in the coming months, and result in financial losses to the company and the reduction of its work force," Huy Fong Foods CEO David Tran said in court papers last month.
Huy Fong Foods and its attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
The judge said there is no direct evidence that links health problems with the odors, but "the odors experienced appear as extremely annoying, irritating, and offensive to the senses warranting consideration as a public nuisance."
Starting in mid-September, the city began receiving "numerous" complaints from residents of "strong, offensive chili odors emanating" from the new property, the suit stated.
"The odors are so strong and offensive as to have caused residents to move outdoor activities indoors and even to vacate their residences temporarily to seek relief from the odors," according to the city's complaint filed last month.
Irwindale's complaint said the odor is a "public nuisance" causing headaches and irritation to their eyes and throats, according to the request for an injunction against Huy Fong Foods that it filed last month.