According to Sam Atwood of the AQMD, inspectors engaged in “odor surveillance” twice in response to the complaints. “On both occasions, they could not detect any odor,” he said.
The new plant, just outside Los Angeles, is currently in the middle of a chile harvesting cycle, running 24/7 to produce up to 12,000 bottles of hot sauce per hour and nearly 200,000 a day.
At this point, the district has not found any reason to take action against Huy Fong Foods, the company in charge of the plant.
“We will continue to take a look at that facility. We can do odor surveillance, and go out regardless of whether there’s a complaint or not, and just have an inspector drive around the area,” Atwood said.
Area residents have complained of sore throats, burning eyes and headaches, prompting Irwindale to request that a judge issue a court order to shut the plant down.
Huy Fong CEO David Tran, warned that such a step would drive up the price of the iconic chile sauce. "If the city shuts us down, the price of Sriracha will jump up a lot," Tran said.
Irwindale Chamber of Commerce president Lisa Bailey recently toured the plant. She wore a hair net during her tour, but left her mouth uncovered. “I didn’t have any adverse reaction while I was there,” Bailey said. “No burning eyes, no throat constriction, and I’ve had that while cooking chiles at home. My husband pretty much uses it like ketchup. I use it mostly on tacos and stuff of that nature. We use it almost daily.”
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled production of Sriracha can continue at the Irwindale factory, at least temporarily. Judge Robert H. O'Brien did not grant a temporary restraining order which would have shut down the plant and set a hearing about the alleged odor problems for Nov. 22.
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