April 11, 2014 in Business

Home to popular hot sauce doing slow burn over odor

John Rogers Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Bottles of Sriracha hot sauce roll off the assembly line at a plant in Irwindale, Calif., in October 2013. Neighbors say processing peppers causes their eyes and throats to burn.
(Full-size photo)

Potent peppers

The city of Irwindale, Calif., says most of the complaints about pungent, spicy smells have come during the last two harvest seasons, when as many as 100 million pounds of freshly harvested jalapeno peppers were ground from August to October.

LOS ANGELES – A small Southern California town has turned up the heat on the makers of the wildly popular Sriracha hot sauce, telling them that if they can’t keep their bottling plant from smelling up the neighborhood, the city will.

The Irwindale City Council voted 4-0 Wednesday to tentatively declare Huy Fong’s 2-year-old bottling plant a public nuisance. If a second vote, scheduled for April 23, makes the declaration official, Huy Fong will have 90 days to stop releasing the spicy smells that neighbors say burn their eyes and throats and make them sneeze and cough.

If the smells still persist, the Los Angeles suburb says it will have the authority to enter the plant, take whatever measures are necessary to kill the odor and bill the company for its efforts.

Reaction to the move was swift and heated.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, who represents the area, advised Irwindale to cool it, saying if the city of 1,400 residents doesn’t want the maker of arguably the world’s most popular hot sauce, he’s sure several other cities in his district do.

The company’s attorney, John Tate, complained the vote was akin to “thumbing Huy Fong in the eye,” because it came after he told the city that Huy Fong was working with regional air-quality officials on a plan to make the smell go away by June 1.

Irwindale City Manager John Davidson said officials were delighted to hear that, indicating he’s certain everybody will simmer down once they realize the city wants only the smell, and not the company, to go away.

“Obviously this is a council that wants to work with all local businesses regardless of their size and has never had any interest in having Huy Fong Foods shut down or relocating,” he said.

Davidson said city officials plan to work with the company and air-quality officials to ensure Huy Fong can get a filtration system in place that will make everyone happy.

The company opened its $40 million bottling plant in Irwindale after it outgrew its old one in nearby Rosemead.

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