October 30th, 2013
12:30 PM ET
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Update, April 10: The Los Angeles Times reports that the Irwindale City Council voted unanimously to declare the odor from Sriracha hot sauce production to be a public nuisance. The company has been given 90 days to correct the issue.

One man's hot sauce is another man's hell.

The city of Irwindale, California has filed a lawsuit asking for Huy Fong Foods to cease production of its iconic Sriracha sauce after residents complained that smells emanating from the factory have caused them physical harm and driven them from their homes.

While Huy Fong is not the originator of Sriracha, the company's distinctive green-topped, rooster-bedecked rendition of the Thai chili sauce has become a staple on mainstream grocery store shelves, professional kitchen lines, restaurant tables and cafeteria condiment stands since the company's CEO and founder, David Tran, fired up U.S. production in 1983.

Consumer devotion to the brand burns deeply enough to have inspired two cookbooks ("The Sriracha Cookbook" and "The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook"), a limited-edition flavor of Lay's potato chips, embroidery, jewelry other art projects.

A Kickstarter for a documentary on Sriracha exceeded its $5000 goal by over $16,000, web humorist Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal wrote and illustrated an ode to his beloved condiment (shared on Facebook by over 300,000 people), and YouTube veritably sizzles with songs, reviews, skits and odes to "rooster sauce."

But the pepper sauce that kindles such adoration in its fans is reportedly scorching the olfactory systems of the factory's neighbors. According to the complaint filed with Los Angeles Superior Court by the city of Irwindale, the stench of cooking peppers isn't just unpleasant - it's painful.

Watery eyes, stinging throats and headaches are par for the course, say city officials who have been fielding complaints since the Huy Fong factory kicked up its season's pepper production. The company produced 20 million bottles of Sriracha in 2012 (that's $60 million dollars worth of pepper sauce) with no advertising - just the passionate word-of-tingling-mouth passed on by its legions of fans. For most of its lifespan, Huy Fong produced the condiment in a residential area of Rosemead, California with no issues, but moved to Irwindale earlier this year.

All of the peppers (hybrid jalapeƱos which are blended with vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic) for the year's run of sauce are processed from September to December after the harvest, and that's when the complaints kicked in.

Neighbor Edward Anthony told KCAL, "Every morning it smells like chili powder. It's irritating." At least 30 complaints were received by the city, and officials kicked off an investigation.

Irwindale city manager John Davidson says that inspectors have found the interior of the factory to be fine, but "You go to the exterior, and it's horrible," he told KCAL.

The city's lawsuit would require Huy Fong to cease production until it files a plan to lessen the impact on the community - and that has Sriracha devotees hot under the collar.

"The Days of a Sriracha Black Market Are Approaching" declared a headline in The Atlantic, while social media was ablaze with talk of hoarding, at-home recipes and potential price hikes.

The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman told CNN in an e-mail,

"I personally would relish in the opportunity to live in a neighborhood bathed in rooster sauce. The thought of watching a blood-red sunrise soaked in clouds of red peppers and garlic would pretty much be my ideal morning. I feel like our country is still recovering from the near Twinkie extinction in 2012, and now we get hit with this?

The dinosaurs had their meteorite. We've got our Sriracha shortage. If a Sriracha shortage isn't one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, then I don't know what is. Now is the time to stock your fallout shelters full of tasty rooster juice. The end is nigh."

But before consumers start building armored sauce transport tanks and installing Sriracha kegs in their rec rooms, they should know that engineers are at work on a solution. Adam Holliday, director of operations for Huy Fong Foods told the Los Angeles Times that a consultant suggested a $600,000 cleaning system that would burn the pepper from the air before it breached the factory walls, but it's a "big expense" and the company is in search of its own solution.

On April 10, Irwindale City Council voted unanimously to declare the odor from Sriracha hot sauce production to be a public nuisance. The company has been given 90 days to correct the issue. Perhaps if it doesn't go Huy Fong's way, the company should turn to their fans for a creative end to this burning issue.

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soundoff (366 Responses)
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    October 14, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
  2. Bubba

    I want some of that Srirachi. How can I get it?

    April 16, 2014 at 11:49 pm |
  3. Brian Siciliano

    Didn't the city of Irwindale realize this place would create odors when they let them open a factory? Once again California is driving jobs elsewhere. I think they should move the factory to Lancaster, CA.

    April 15, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
    • boyohboy

      Yes! And they can put it right next to the sewage treatment plant. Maybe it will improve the stench? Or they can put it out in Trona – that place stinks already too.

      April 15, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
  4. oksunny

    yeah....well, im forced to smell the smell of the Greeley (CO) slaughterhouse/farms which, imo, is way worse than a pepper smell. Cow-butt smell makes my eyes burn and my stomach clench.

    April 14, 2014 at 8:36 pm |
  5. Trent

    30 complaints from 5 homes is the part every article fails to mention. In a town of 1100 people this is being drive by 5 homes, obviously one of them is very well connected. I hope Huy Foods takes the town to court.

    April 12, 2014 at 11:52 pm |
  6. Grayson Wolfe

    Please move your factory to Georgia. You will be welcome here. We have a well educated populace, many small towns that could use the work, favorable taxation laws and a great distribution network. Give it some thought.

    November 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • dwest

      Your eyes will burn as bad in Georgia as ours do in Irwindale. It is not the smell, so educate yourself with the true facts. It is a irritant released by the chilies while being ground that is being blanketed over the well established and old neighborhood by the just built factory. The grinding is done for the season for enough product for all of next year. The judge waited until after the season was over before forcing his hand. There was no trick or treating this year because the factory was emitting extra flumes that evening and ALL the kids eyes were burning. Children come first! The city is asking for the factory to install a proper filtration system on their exhaust fans that should have been install when the factory was built. . I love the sauce but I would not rub it in my eyes. Which these flumes have the same result.

      November 27, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
      • gunfox

        No, they won't, because there truly are no smell like the one you are describing. It's all overhype. The only smell from the factory is inside the pepper griding room itself. Don't try to force these lies down out throats man!

        March 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
  7. veep

    cooking capsicum peppers in a confined space leads to respiratory challenges.

    November 27, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  8. Berk Demirbulakli

    If they think rooster sauce smells bad they should smell my sweaty ball sack.....woooo boy....tangy.

    November 1, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  9. Brian Skrobot

    I keep a bottle of this stuff in my fridge at school...other teachers constantly ask if they can use it!

    You can have my Sriracha when you pry the (empty) bottle from my cold, dead hand!!!!

    October 31, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  10. ThaiChiliPepper

    Wish it was Hotter!

    October 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  11. ArmpitofCalifornia

    Just stick the stinky bastard in Fresno. Everything the rest of California doesn't want for various unpleasant reasons ends up here one way or another. Nobody would even notice the smell amongst the farm chemicals and putrid distillery fumes choking the breath from their lungs. Fresno could use the jobs too.

    October 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  12. gimppac

    I love the rooster sauce too, but hope that they find a reasonable solution so that the residents can live without the stinging eyes/headaches etc. The thing is, that we can decide when we want to experience the delicious siracha...the residents of this town kind of can't escape it...and they were there well before the factory moved there.

    October 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  13. Benn

    I found a house I liked that's located under 4 major flight lines. After moving in, I learned I'm allergic to airplanes flying overhead. Pray for me.

    October 31, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • mgcady

      To be fair... the factory is newer than most of the people around. This is something that should have come up during the zoning/planning board stage.

      October 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  14. Partisan

    I always shove a bottle of it into the left rear pocket of my leather motorcycle pants before I go out dancing at the Blue Oyster.

    October 31, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • John Boner

      I'll be watching for you, sweetie.

      October 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  15. Mitt Romney

    I know I'm going to hell for this, but I put Rooster Sauce on everything I eat.

    October 31, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Ann Romney

      He even puts it on me. Mitt. you're going to go to hell. giggle giggle

      October 31, 2013 at 9:43 am |
      • Sarah Palin

        I told Todd if he ever put that stuff on me again I was going to "secede from the Union," if you know what I mean.

        October 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
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