Sriracha hot sauce makers head for next showdown in California

by Reuters
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 22:21 GMT

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES, April 23 (Reuters) - The Southern California makers of the popular Sriracha brand of hot sauce faced another potential showdown on Wednesday with the city of Irwindale over a peppery smell emitted from the company's chili-processing factory in town.

The city council was expected to vote on a resolution formally declaring the factory a public nuisance unless the sides reach an agreement to resolve resident complaints of tear-inducing fumes from the plant.

City officials and attorneys for Huy Fong Foods were in talks this week seeking to reach a settlement ahead of Wednesday night's council meeting, said Laura Snyder, an administrator in the city manager's office.

"The goal is to have an agreement so we don't have to move forward" with the nuisance resolution, she said. Huy Fong officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Such a declaration would pave the way for the city, located about 20 miles (32 km) east of Los Angeles, to act on its own to remedy the nuisance, with the company assuming any abatement costs, by lien against the property if necessary.

Irwindale filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong last October saying the 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.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the hot sauce maker in November to curb noxious emissions but stopped short of requiring a plant shutdown as sought by the city.

The dispute has cast a measure of uncertainty over future production of Huy Fong's red-colored Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, among the top-selling condiments in the United States.

Marketed in clear squeeze bottles with a green cap and trademark rooster logo, Sriracha has been celebrated as an ingredient of the year by Bon Appetit magazine and has inspired cookbooks, a food festival and a documentary.

The hot sauce grossed roughly $60 million in sales last year, according to U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas, a Democrat from the nearby San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles who has sought to lure the factory to his district.

Cardenas toured the plant on Tuesday and met with Huy Fong Foods owner David Tran, an ethnic Chinese immigrant from Vietnam who founded the company in 1980.

The company says it has more than two dozen invitations from officials across the country, several in Texas, to move the plant to their towns. Cardenas said his office is aware of such offers in at least 10 states as far away as Pennsylvania. (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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