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Ruling on Sriracha factory raises job worries

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:39 a.m. HST, Nov 28, 2013

IRWINDALE, Calif. » A judge has ordered a plant that produces the popular Sriracha chili sauce to stop emitting annoying odors in a ruling that left some nearby residents worried about a possible loss of jobs at the factory.

Judge Robert H. O'Brien on Tuesday ruled in favor of the city of Irwindale, where Sriracha recently relocated, saying sauce maker Huy Fong Foods must stop any operations that could be causing the odors and make unspecified changes to mitigate them.

The company had no immediate comment, but a few neighbors interviewed today dismissed the complaints and worried that jobs might be lost if the plant is forced to close.

"I don't want it shut down because I think a lot of people will lose their jobs," said Marta Torres, 47. "In two years it has never smelled as much as now, but I think it's OK."

Torres said the smell wafts into her home late in the day in an area where many of her neighbors like to cook with spices.

"It's something you can deal with," she said. "It doesn't bother us."

O'Brien's preliminary injunction was issued in response to a lawsuit filed Oct. 21 by Irwindale, a small industrial city east of Los Angeles and home to nearly 1,500 people.

It wasn't immediately known if the food company plans to appeal. The Associated Press left phone messages today for Huy Fong Foods and its attorney.

The company has said there is no reason to close the plant now because harvest season and the subsequent grinding of red-hot jalapeno peppers — the key ingredient of the sauce — have passed.

As a result, the injunction might not have an immediate impact on the company's production or the nation's hot sauce supply as Huy Fong continues its year-round mixing and bottling.

The judge acknowledged there was a lack of credible evidence linking complaints of breathing trouble and watery eyes to the factory. But he said for residents the odor that could be reasonably inferred to be emanating from the facility is "extremely annoying, irritating and offensive to the senses warranting consideration as a public nuisance."

Some residents said living with the smell is bearable.

Randall Acosta, 45, who lives in an apartment complex across the street from the factory, said the scent can be strong sometimes but it makes him hungry.

"Why are people complaining about the chili smell when this is an industrial area?" he asked. "There's burning rubber down the street. There are other dangers in this city."

The case could still go to trial, but Irwindale officials would like to see a settlement outside court and do not want to shut down Sriracha altogether, City Attorney Fred Galante told the Los Angeles Times.

"We're going to try to keep having a conversation with Huy Fong," he said, and find a collaborative way to address the odor problem.

The company has already been courted by other cities, including Philadelphia and Denton in northeastern Texas.

Philadelphia Councilman at-Large Jim Kenney told WCAU-TV today that his office is looking at finding a spot in the city for the Sriracha maker.

Last month, Denton Councilman Kevin Roden said in an open letter to Huy Fong that the Texas city has cheap land and an emerging urban farm district that would benefit the company.

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cojef wrote:
How many employees does this company hire from the local community. Texas has no income taxes, but do have a sales tax on everything, and the rate is still lower than in California. Governor Perry has been encouraging California businesses to re-locate to his State, and many have, much to the chagrin of Governor Brown.
on November 27,2013 | 01:08PM
808warriorfan wrote:
Texas ????? When the State Motto is "you ain't from around here are ya boy" ????? or is it ....."Shoot first, ask questions later"
on November 28,2013 | 10:09AM
MexMe wrote:
The company needs to stop paying lawyers and use the cash to move to Denton, TX. This entire lawsuit is idiotic. The citizens that want the factory there need to speak up to their city officials if they want to keep the company. Otherwise, it's on to the unemployment roles for them and off to Texas for the company. Yeeeee hawwwww!!!
on November 27,2013 | 06:00PM
Maipono wrote:
California has become very anti-business as of late, like Hawaii, they may find some other companies also moving out of state. The once Golden State may lose its luster.
on November 27,2013 | 06:33PM
mikethenovice wrote:
Golden State to Bit Coin state?
on November 28,2013 | 08:02AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Americans cry about paying for a big government, yet cry when they need help from them.
on November 28,2013 | 08:00AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Come to Hawaii. We could use the business. We could set you up near the shoreline so the chili fumes go out to sea.
on November 28,2013 | 08:01AM
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