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Despite fumes, hot sauce plant to remain open

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — A judge refused on Thursday to order an immediate halt to production of the internationally popular hot sauce Sriracha at a Southern California factory that local residents say is stinking up their neighborhoods with pepper and garlic fumes.

In rejecting the city of Irwindale's request for a temporary restraining order, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien indicated he wasn't given enough time to consider the case.

“You're asking for a very radical order on 24-hour notice,” O'Brien told attorney June Ailin, representing the city.

Instead, O'Brien scheduled a Nov. 22 hearing to consider issuing a preliminary injunction.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, Irwindale said it had received “numerous” complaints from residents who say the smell coming from the Huy Fong Foods plant burns their eyes and throats and gives them headaches.

The odor lasts for about 3½ months a year, during the California jalapeno pepper harvest season.

The company, which produces Sriracha and two other popular sauces, says it grinds up about 100 million pounds of the hottest California-grown hybrid jalapeno peppers it can find. The peppers are mixed with garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar, with the resulting fumes sucked through a filtration system and out through the roof.

City officials say complaints started arriving in September, soon after jalapeno harvest season began. Some people downwind have said the effect is like having a big plate of hot peppers shoved in your face.

The harvest season will end in about a week, meaning the smell should be gone by the Nov. 22 hearing — at least until next August.

However, City Manager John Davidson said after the hearing that Huy Fong officials have told the city they are working on developing a better filtration system that they think will kill the smell by next year.

“And that's good news for us,” he said. “We are hoping they do.”

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