Sriracha lives! At least for now: Judge makes no ruling on shutdown

The fate of the Huy Fong Foods' Sriracha plant in Irwindale, which produces the fiery Asian condiment with the rooster on the label and the bright green cap, is still up in the air. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge did not make a ruling Friday on whether to temporarily stop production at the Sriracha plant after the city filed a suit calling the chile odor a public nuisance.

Judge Robert H. O'Brien said he lacked adequate information for a ruling and did not give a time frame for when he would make his final decision. He said he was not given necessary air-quality control reports from South Coast Air Quality Management District, which was supposed to collect data at the Irwindale plant. 

Huy Fong Foods attorney John R. Tate said the company has not received any citations or reports of odor problems from the district. When inspectors responded to three different smell complaints they were able to verify that a smell existed, but no notices of violation were issued. 

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

Tate also questioned residents' complaints that the sauce odor caused headaches, swollen glands, burning eyes, nosebleeds and other health conditions. One family claimed the smell was so strong, they were forced to move a birthday party inside. 

Once the judge rules on the temporary halt of production, another ruling will be needed to address a permanent injunction.  

David Tran, chief executive officer and founder of Huy Fong Foods, told The Times' Frank Shyong the chiles are supposed to smell and that the pungency adds to the sauce.  

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

The city filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods in October and asked the judge to grant a permanent injunction after receiving numerous complaints about the chile smell. The city's request for a temporary restraining order was denied on Oct. 31 and the plant was able to continue processing chiles. 

Bummed about Sriracha? Let's talk about it. Follow me on Twitter: @Jenn_Harris_


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