Sriracha odor complaints: No ruling from judge on shutdown

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge made no ruling Friday whether to grant the city of Irwindale's request to temporarily halt production at the Sriracha hot sauce plant because of odor complaints.

Judge Robert H. O'Brien said he would take the matter under submission. 

"I expected more information from your side," O'Brien told attorney John R. Tate, who is representing Sriracha maker Huy Fong Foods. 

O'Brien said he was hoping to review a report from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which had installed air-monitoring devices at the Irwindale plant to collect data. 

Tate said they have not received any report from the district and have not received any citations for odor problems.

"There's no evidence that we're causing a smell," Tate said. "Maybe there's a smell coming from somewhere else, but there's no evidence it's coming from our plant." 

Tate questioned complaints from residents, including one family who said they had to move a birthday party indoors.

"It just coalesces into a concentrated form and then drops onto somebody's house? That's scientifically impossible," Tate said. 

Gina Kim, Irwindale's attorney, said the city continued receiving complaints into the first week of November.

"We want to get it fixed since this is an ongoing seasonal problem," Kim said.

The city filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods after several residents complained of an odor they said was coming from the Irwindale plant. A judge denied the city's request for a temporary restraining order on Oct. 31, which would have immediately stopped operations at the plant in the middle of chile harvest season.

The city has also asked the judge to grant a permanent injunction.

At least 18 households have filed complaints with the city. Many residents complained of burning eyes, swollen glands and nosebleeds.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has yet to issue the Sriracha plant a notice of violation. Inspectors were able to verify the existence of smells after responding to residential complaints on three occasions on three days, according to agency spokesman Sam Atwood. 

David Tran, chief executive and founder of Huy Fong Foods, told The Times he has twice added filters to the plant's exhaust vents. But he says the chiles are pungent for a reason — it makes for a better sauce.

"If it doesn't smell, we can't sell," Tran said. "If the city shuts us down, the price of Sriracha will jump a lot."

Even after the judge rules on whether to temporarily halt production, Huy Fong Foods must appear in court again for a trial to determine the question of a permanent injunction. 


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