It's well known that a spoonful of Sriracha, an Asian hot sauce made by Huy Fong Foods, can burn your mouth.
But in Irwindale, where the hot sauce's production facilities are, residents are complaining of burning eyes, irritated throats and headaches caused by a powerful, painful odor that the city says appears to be emanating from the factory during production. The smell is so aggressive that one family was forced to move a birthday party indoors after the spicy odor descended on the festivities, said Irwindale City Atty. Fred Galante.
The city of Irwindale filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, claiming that the odor was a public nuisance and asking a judge to stop production until the smell can be reduced.
"Given how long it's going on, we had no choice but to institute this action," Galante said.
Irwindale officals repeatedly met with representatives from Huy Fong Foods to discuss methods of reducing the odors, according to the suit. Huy Fong representatives cooperated at first but later denied there was an odor problem, saying their employees worked in similar olfactory settings without complaint, Galante said.
Calls and emails to Huy Fong Foods were not immediately returned Monday evening.
Huy Fong Foods' Sriracha sauce was invented in Chinatown by Vietnamese immigrant David Tran. The sauce quickly grew in popularity, and it's green-capped clear plastic bottle has become a fixture at restaurants around the the U.S., even spawning a cookbook, a Lay's chip flavor and a pending documentary. Last Sunday, crowds gathered downtown for the first ever L.A. Sriracha Festival.
Huy Fong Foods, which makes two other sauces, had operated out of two buildings in Rosemead since the late 1980s. The company began sauce production in a 655,000-square-foot factory in Irwindale last year.
All of the chili needed for producing the year's sauce is processed and stored during a three-month period beginning as early as September and concluding sometime before or during December.
The city is asking a judge to stop production at the hot sauce factory until the company submits a plan of action for mitigating the spicy odors, Galante said.
"If they fix it and the odor problems stop, we don't need this order; but so far the odor complaints continue," said Galante, who said about 30 residents have filed or signed complaints to the city about the smell.
A judge is scheduled to decide whether to grant the order Thursday, Galante said.