IRWINDALE, California (Reuters) - A Southern California city council put off voting on Wednesday on whether to declare a popular hot sauce maker’s factory a public nuisance, as the two sides sought a settlement over residents’ complaints of tear-inducing fumes.
Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda told dozens of Huy Fong Foods workers wearing “Save Sriracha” shirts, as well as residents and others, that he “loves the chili sauce” but was asking the company for a few unspecified “little things.”
“It’s never been this council’s goal to shut this place down,” Breceda said. “No one wants you here more, Huy Fong Foods, than this city council. I’m positive we can resolve the issue.”
Irwindale filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong last October saying the smell of peppers being crushed at the plant was causing headaches and irritating the eyes and throats of nearby residents, forcing some to remain indoors.
The council on Wednesday decided to push back a vote on whether to declare the factory a public nuisance until May 14.
Declaring the factory a nuisance could pave the way for the city, located about 20 miles east of Los Angeles, to act on its own to remedy the harmful fumes, with the company assuming any abatement costs, by introducing a lien against the property if necessary.
The red-colored Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, among the top-selling condiments in the United States, is marketed in clear squeeze bottles with a green cap and trademark rooster logo. It has been celebrated as an ingredient of the year by Bon Appetit magazine and has inspired cookbooks, a food festival and a documentary.
“You say it’s toxic. I work for 32 years in this business. I (would) die already,” Huy Fong Foods owner David Tran, an ethnic Chinese immigrant from Vietnam who founded the company in 1980, told the council on Wednesday evening.
The 600,000-square-foot, $50 million factory opened in Irwindale in 2010, according to a Republican congressional candidate in the district that includes Irwindale.
The company says it has more than two dozen invitations from officials across the country to relocate its plant.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the hot sauce maker in November to curb noxious emissions but stopped short of requiring a plant shutdown as sought by the city.
Reporting by Tori Richards in Irwindale, Calif.; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric M. Johnson, Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker