The price of Sriracha may jump if a court orders the hot sauce factory to halt production over a dispute with the city of Irwindale, the company's chief executive said.
"If the city shuts us down, the price of Sriracha will jump up a lot," said CEO and founder David Tran of Huy Fong Foods, which makes the hot sauce.
Tran said the company is packing about 200,000 bottles of sauce a day. Every bottle produced is already sold and the company is struggling to meet demand.
After residents complained of burning eyes and throats and in some cases headaches, the city asked a judge Monday to halt operations at the plant. The plant, which processes raw materials for the sauce for about three months a year, is currently in the middle of a chile harvesting cycle.
When the city approached the factory about the smell last year, Tran said the company installed active carbon filters and has since installed a second layer in response to smell complaints.
Inspectors from the South Coast Air Quality Management District have also inspected the plant twice and issued no citations, Tran said.
"I read the city's report and I was very surprised," Tran said.
Adam Holliday, director of operations for Huy Fong Foods, said the company has been actively trying to fix the problem and communicating its efforts to the city.
But he said research needed to be done to find the most efficient way to reduce the smell. A consultant supplied by the city of Irwindale recommended a $600,000 cleaning system that would burn the scent out of the air before expelling it into the atmosphere, Holliday said. But Huy Fong wanted to explore other options.
"Burning the pepper air just didn't seem safer. Maybe we didn't move fast enough, but it's a big business expense and we want to make sure it's the right investment," Holliday said.
Huy Fong Foods has run a hot sauce factory in Rosemead in a residential area for nearly 30 years without complaint, Holliday said.
In Irwindale, the sauce factory is along a row of industrial businesses including beer and dog food production facilities, facing a largely empty field. But some residential units are also among the factory's neighbors.
The smell is so aggressive that one family was forced to move a birthday party indoors after the spicy odor descended on the festivities, Irwindale City Atty. Fred 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 added that 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.