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Judge allows Irwindale factory to continue producing Sriracha

The city says the hot sauce plant's odor still bothers nearby residents, and Irwindale will continue to pursue action against it.

October 31, 2013|By Frank Shyong
  • A Huy Fong Foods employee oversees chiles being unloaded at the company's Sriracha-producing plant in Irwindale. A judge's ruling allows the factory to continue producing the hot sauce, despite neighbors complaining of burning throats and eyes from the smell.
A Huy Fong Foods employee oversees chiles being unloaded at the company's… (Cheryl A. Guerrero, Los…)

Though some near Irwindale's Sriracha factory still complain of inflamed asthma and burning throats from the factory's spicy emissions, fans of the popular hot sauce can breathe a sigh of relief.

A Los Angeles Superior court judge ruled Thursday that production at Huy Fung Foods' plant can continue, denying Irwindale's request for a restraining order to stop operations until the company fixes the odor issues.

"Huy Fong Foods is grateful with today's ruling denying the preliminary restraining order sought by the City of Irwindale," the company said in an email to The Times. "The company has worked with the city and other governmental agencies in this matter and will continue to do so."

Thursday's ruling could mean that next year's supply of Sriracha hot sauce is secure. According to a declaration from Huy Fung Foods founder and chief executive David Tran filed in court Thursday, the process of harvesting, grinding, and storing the chiles needed for next year's sauce could be completed in just over a week — well before the next court date. But the pace of the harvest and production process depends on the weather and on the chiles themselves, Huy Fong officials said.

Irwindale officials said they will continue to use all legal tools to ensure that the emissions from the factory no longer bother residents. The city has also asked for a preliminary and permanent injunction on operations at the factory, and the next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22.

City Atty. Fred Galante said residents near the factory are experiencing ongoing harm from the plant's spicy, garlicky emissions.

"Nothing changes. We're still pursuing this," Galante said.

In a declaration filed Thursday, Tran said the company first learned of problems when a city councilman's son complained of an odor in late 2012. The company installed carbon filters and thought the issue resolved, but the councilman's son complained again this past September, according to the declaration.

The company added a second layer of filters and invited inspectors into the plant. City officials, according to Tran, suggested using an air-filtration system that would cost $600,000 to install, but Tran said he wanted to explore other options.

Galante said Irwindale filed suit on Monday because Huy Fung Foods decided not to cooperate with the city. Some residents have been complaining, Galante said, including parents of children with asthma who can't play outside thanks to the smell.

"If we continue to receive ongoing complaints, we will continue to pursue legal action," Galante said.

frank.shyong@latimes.com

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