Earlier this week, a pro-environment entity filed a lawsuit to prevent the production of one of our nation’s most important resources.
No, not oil or gas. This legal war is being waged over Sriracha.
The city of Irwindale, California sued Huy Fong Foods to halt production of the popular Thai-inspired hot sauce. Apparently the factory, which Huy Fong opened last year to meet high demand, brings whole new meaning to the phrase “sweat shop.” Nearby residents claim the factory produces a “strong, offensive chili odor,” which requires them to “move outdoor activities indoors and even to vacate their residences temporarily.”
A city consultant recommended the company install a $600,000 cleaning system. However, an inspector from the South Coast Air Quality Management District did not smell a foul odor or find any compliance violations when he visited the factory last week, and the Clean Air Act does not list jalapeno peppers as an airborne contaminant.
Named “Ingredient of the Year” by Bon Appétit in 2010, Huy Fong’s Sriracha, with its well-known green lid and rooster on the bottle, is the most popular brand of the condiment in the United States, selling 20 million bottles last year. Huy Fong CEO David Tran said the price of Sriracha “will jump a lot,” if production is stopped, especially since fall is its peak production time.
Naturally, some websites created survival guides in the event of a “Sriracha Apocalypse.” Alexander Abad-Santos of The Atlantic Wire advised readers to become Sriracha kingpins by:
…buying copious amounts of Sriracha now. And hope Tran’s company goes down in flames, and other cities follow Irwindale’s lead and stop producing delicious spicy condiments. Soon the world will be tasteless and gray, but everyone will know where to turn.
In the midst of this hysteria, one Texas politician arose from the chaos and offered potential salvation. Kevin Roden, a Denton city councilman, posted an open letter on his website to Huy Fong in an attempt to bring the company to the Lone Star state.
Roden wrote that Denton has plenty to offer Huy Fong, including cheap land, shovel-ready industrial sites, a city-owned electric company, an emerging urban farm district, and “tons of college students seemingly willing to work for a daily supply of free Sriracha.”
And the odor, and alleged chili-induced eye irritation or headaches? Not a problem. According to Roden, Denton’s industrial sites are located “far away” from residential neighborhoods, so Huy Fong won’t need to worry about future lawsuits.
The trending topic generated its own (fume-free) heat, with several media outlets, including the Dallas Morning News, CBS and NBC affiliates in Dallas, and the Los Angeles Daily News all covering the social media campaign.
There is one roadblock preventing a possible Texas relocation. For its Sriracha, Huy Fong uses a pepper supply grown in California. However, Aimee Bisset, the director of Denton’s Office of Economic Development, told the Dallas Morning News this would not necessarily be a problem because “we have a growing urban farm district and local food movement and have the ability to bring [the peppers] here.”
The city’s recycling plant is also ready.
— Denton Recycles (@DentonRecycles) October 31, 2013
Despite all that, Denton has not formally contacted Huy Fong about relocating to the city. And, as Ben Russell of NBC5 reported, Huy Fong wasn’t talking.
A rep from Huy Fong Foods – maker of Sriracha – tells me they’re aware of @KevinRoden offer to move to Denton, but they’re not commenting
— Ben Russell (@BenRussellNBC5) October 31, 2013
Alas, on Thursday, a Los Angeles superior court judge denied Irwindale’s request to stop operations at the factory until the odor problem desists. However, the condiment war is not yet over. Irwindale is still seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction on operations at the factory, and another court hearing is set for November 22nd.