We Can All Stop Stocking Up on Sriracha Sauce Now

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 31 2013 2:53 PM

We Can All Stop Stocking Up on Sriracha Sauce Now

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Bottles of Huy Fong brand Sriracha chili sauce are seen for sale at a grocery store in Los Angeles, California, October 30, 2013

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Culinary crisis averted (for now), via the Los Angeles Times:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Production of Sriracha can continue at an Irwindale factory, at least for now, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.  Judge Robert H. O'Brien denied the city of Irwindale's request for a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for Nov. 22 to determine whether the hot-sauce factory should be shut down while it fixes alleged odor problems. ... The city sued Huy Fong Foods on Monday, claiming the spicy scent of ground peppers is a public nuisance in violation of the municipal code. The city acted after some nearby residents complained of burning eyes and throats.
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The city had asked for a temporary restraining order that would have forced the factory to shut down immediately while the legal fight sorted itself out. David Tran, chief executive and founder of hot sauce-maker Huy Fong Foods, warned that doing so would have driven Sriracha prices drastically higher. As part of his defense, Tran also offered up what has to be the second-best California court-related rhyming couplet of all time: "If it doesn't smell, we can't sell."

The ruling is only a temporary victory for the company, but a major one. There's reportedly only a little more than a week left in the chile harvest and process period, so the judge's decision means that the company will be able to finish processing its special hybrid jalapeño peppers they need for next year's hot-sauce supply. (The factory technically makes three varieties of the sauce—Chili Garlic, Sambal Oelek, and Sriracha Chili—although it's the last one, known as the "rooster" sauce and dubbed a "polyglot purée" by the New York Times, that has found a place in the current American culinary consciousness.)

The November hearing will focus on the city's request for a permanent injunction which, if granted, would stay in place until the company can curb the smell to the city and court's satisfaction. For more on the backstory on the fight, as well as some details about the sauce's production process, check out this article in the Los Angeles Times from earlier this week.

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