Sriracha hot sauce saved – for now – as factory operates through legal battle
This article titled “Sriracha hot sauce saved – for now – as factory operates through legal battle” was written by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, for theguardian.com on Thursday 5th December 2013 21.11 UTC
The hot sauce apocalypse has been deferred. Officials in California have confirmed that Sriracha, maker of the wildly popular chili sauce, can continue production – for now.
Foodies had declared “srirachocalypse” last month after a court ordered the company’s factory to partly shut down because the spicy smell bothered residents nearby.
Social media wailed and many vowed to stockpile, prompting one would-be entrepreneur to offer a pack on ebay for ,000.
But in a court filing on Wednesday the city of Irwindale, a small, industrial hub east of Los Angeles, made clear Sriracha could continue operating as long as it did not stink up the surrounding area.
The factory grinds chilis for three months each year, a process it recently completed, meaning its smelliest phase will not resume until next fall. For the next few months it is due only to mix and bottle the sauce – about 200,000 bottles daily. It process about 45,000 tonnes of chili pepper per year.
The company has been defiant. Last Friday it strung a banner outside its facility stating “No tear gas made here”, a reference to complaints the odour stung eyes and throats the same way as pepper spray.
In a statement emailed to the Guardian, David Tran, founder and CEO of Huy Fong Foods, which makes the sauce, said the threatened ban could trigger bankruptcy or force the company to move.
Sriracha appears to be winning the media battle. The outpouring of support on social media was followed by scrutiny of the alleged “stinky underbelly of local governance” in Irwindale.
This week’s launch of the first sriracha flavored vodka by the Minneapolis-based Phillips Distilling Company capped an image rebound for a sauce which has spawned T-shirts, a documentary, a cook book and a food festival.
Fans say the paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, named after the Thai city of Si Racha, transforms and enriches dishes for those who can stand the heat.
Despite last week’s laments and vows to hoard, the company never ceased operating. Robert O’Brien, an LA county superior court judge, ordered a halt to activity that could spread odours. The injunction did not ban production or specify exactly what steps the company should take to prevent odours. With chili grinding completed it appears production can continue for now.
The city’s filing to the court this week said the company could operate as long as it emitted no “noxious, irritating or offensive odors”. The legal battle is expected to last for months.
Claims the smell sickened residents lacked “credible evidence”, said the judge, but he deemed it a public nuisance on the grounds it was annoying, irritating and offensive to the senses.
“Too bad the judge didn’t apply the same logic to the city government of Irwindale and shut it down, too,” wrote Joe Matthews, a columnist with Zocalo Public Square.
Irwindale, he said, was a “not-quite-city” of just 1,400 residents versus 40,000 workers where companies formed factions to control and abuse official functions, a state-wide problem. The Sriracha factory did indeed smell, he said, “but that won’t change the fact that local governance, here and across California, stinks”.
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