Sriracha Hot Sauce Production Declared Public Nuisance by California City

The hot sauce apocalypse looms again. Officials in California have declared the production of sriracha, the wildly popular chili sauce, a public nuisance because of the smell.

Irwindale's city council voted unanimously on Wednesday night to give the manufacturer an ultimatum to reduce the odour itself or have officials march in and do it themselves.

There is no immediate risk of shutdown but foodies who declared “srirachocalypse” last November after a court-ordered Huy Fong Foods to partly shut down bristled anew over the latest threat.

“They can't do this,” tweeted @ishak777. “Blasphemy!” wailed another. Sriracha is so beloved it has spawned T-shirts, a documentary, a cookbook and a food festival.

The council determined that the spicy odour had caused a problem for residents in the industrial town east of Los Angeles. Some have complained of headaches and sore throats and demanded the plant's closure. Air quality officials said they had received 69 complaints in recent months.

The company's attorney promised that Huy Fong Foods would have an action plan within 10 days and a system to control the smell operational by June, when it traditionally starts grinding chili peppers.

Representatives from the South Coast Air Quality Management District said its inspectors had visited the factory and would work with the company to curb the smell.

“We have shared the results of our air sampling with both Huy Fong Foods and the city of Irwindale and believe that the information we have gathered should allow Huy Fong Foods and the city of Irwindale to resolve their differences,” a spokesperson, Tina Cox, told reporters.

The company, founded by a Vietnamese businessman, David Tran, processes about 45,000 tonnes of chili pepper per year and produces about 200,000 bottles daily.

Fans say the paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, named after the Thai city of Si Racha, transforms and enriches dishes for those who can stand the heat.

Many vowed to stockpile last November after the court ordered a partial shutdown. One would-be entrepreneur offered a pack on eBay for $10,000.

The company defiantly strung a banner outside its facility stating “No tear gas made here,” a reference to complaints about stinging eyes and throats.

Tran said any ban could trigger bankruptcy or force the company to move. In fact the company never ceased operating because the smelliest phase of production – chili grinding – happens over summer and autumn.

In February Irwindale gave the Huy Fong Foods, which last year earned $60m in revenue, six weeks to conduct testing along with air quality officials.

Wednesday night's vote, which was live tweeted by the Pasadena Star News, renewed the pressure but gave breathing space for a solution. The council was expected to give the company a 90-day deadline.

The dispute is an unexpected twist to what had been a runaway success story. Tran, 68, was an officer in South Vietnam's army who fled with his family to the US after communist North Vietnam took over the country.

Jobless but with a passion for hot sauce, he started making his chili concoction in a bucket and delivering it by van around San Gabriel valley, outside LA. He named his company Huy Fong Foods after the freighter he sailed in from Vietnam.


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