The Return of the Sriracha Apocalypse? Judge Orders Partial Shutdown of Hot Sauce Factory

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 27 2013 9:47 AM

The Return of the Sriracha Apocalypse

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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

It's not the full-blown Sriracha doomsday scenario that hot-sauce lovers feared last month but it will nonetheless have fans of the increasingly ubiquitous Rooster sauce nervous heading into the new year: A California judge on Tuesday ordered Huy Fong Foods to partially shut down its plant in response to complaints from neighbors who complained that the spicy odor that accompanies production has left them with everything from inflamed asthma to reoccurring nosebleeds. Here's the Los Angeles Times with more on the details of yesterday's ruling:

Judge Robert H. O'Brien ruled in favor of the city and ordered sauce maker Huy Fong Foods to cease any kind of operations that could be causing the odors and make immediate changes that would help mitigate them. The injunction does not order the company to stop operating  entirely, or specify the types of actions that are required. ...
O'Brien acknowledged in his ruling that there was a "lack of credible evidence" linking the stated health problems to the odor, but said that the odor appears to be "extremely annoying, irritating and offensive to the senses warranting consideration as a public nuisance. He also wrote that the odor could be "reasonably inferred to be emanating from the facility," and determined that the city is "likely to prevail" in declaring the odor a public nuisance, according to the ruling.
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O'Brien was the same judge who late last month sided with the sauce-maker when he denied the city of Irwindale's request for a temporary restraining order that would have shuttered the plant while the legal fight played out. That ruling allowed the company to  finish processing its annual batch of special hybrid jalapeño peppers they need for next year's hot-sauce supply. But while this year's three-month-long process of harvesting and grinding the chilies is over, the mixing and bottling of the sauce continues year round—or at least did before yesterday's ruling.

The latest ruling requires only a halt to those parts of production that cause the offending odor—although it remains unclear exactly which parts of production that is, and Huy Fong Foods, which previously warned a shutdown of any kind could cause both a shortage in sauce supply and a spike in prices, isn't talking at the moment. So for now, no one's quite sure how long Huy Fong Foods has to solve the problem before the ruling begins to impact the number of bottles rolling off the assembly line.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

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

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