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Sriracha Stays...For Now

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Sriracha isn’t going anywhere, at least for now. The popular hot sauce that is produced in Southern California will continue to be produced through the new year, despite complaints that fumes from the Irwindale-based factory are causing illnesses for nearby residents. On November 23 Judge Robert H. O’Brien denied Irwindale’s request that the Sriracha factory be closed. Instead, he issued an injunction that forces the plant to cease all operations that cause the fumes. However, the timing of this injunction works out well for Sriracha consumers as the fume-producing phase of production had already ended.

The city of Irwindale – which is located about 25 miles northeast of Los Angeles – filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods (Sriracha’s owner) in October after residents complained that fumes from the factory were causing watering eyes, burning throats, and other illnesses. The fumes are caused by one of the first stages of Sriracha production, which is to wash and crush jalapeno peppers before they are mixed with other ingredients and bottled. Particles from the peppers are sucked through a filtration system and out of the factory. But Irwindale claims that the filtration system does not work well enough

Judge O’Brien cited that there is a “lack of credible evidence” linking residents’ complaints to air from the Sriracha factory, and therefore did not order the factory to be closed. Sriracha will continue to be mixed and bottled, but the future of the product (at least in Irwindale) is still uncertain if Huy Fong and Irwindale cannot reach an agreement before the start of next year’s chilli-grinding season. Huy Fong recently balked at Irwindale’s request to install a new $600,000 filtering system.

The Irwindale factory was opened in 2011 to triple production of Sriracha in response to a recent spike in demand for the hot sauce. The South Coast Air Quality Management District only started receiving complaints about the factory on October 21, none of which could be confirmed. In the coming months, if Huy Fong satisfies Irwindale in its attempts to reduce the pepper fumes, the factory will continue to produce Sriracha. Huy Fong can also continue to produce their hot sauce if they are able to reach a settlement with the residents of Irwindale. At this point it seems extraordinarily unlikely that Sriracha will disappear. Though, depending on what action is taken, it may become more expensive.

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