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Sriracha company CEO: Shutting factory could hike prices

A California city asks a court to halt production of the popular condiment at a local factory after complaints of odors

Complaints over smells emanating from a Southern California factory that produces Sriracha hot sauce could end up costing fans of the increasingly ubiquitous pan-Asian food condiment that has inspired cookbooks and almost a new Lays chip flavor.

That's according to David Tran, CEO and founder of Huy Fong Foods, the company which produces the chili sauce and whose main U.S. factory is located in the city of Irwindale. After the city filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday asking a judge to stop production at the factory, Tran told the Los Angeles Times that if the factory closes, prices will increase. 

City officials say residents have been complaining of burning eyes, irritated throats and headaches because of the smell, and some people say they've had to leave their homes to escape it.

One family was forced to move a birthday party indoors after the strong smell overwhelmed the gathering, Irwindale City Attorney Fred Galante told the Times.

Huy Fong initially cooperated with the city over the complaints, but talks broke down last week after company representatives denied there was an odor problem, saying their employees worked in similar olfactory settings without complaint, Galante said.

The city, which is about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, is seeking temporary closure of the factory until Huy Fong submits a plan to minimize the smell.

"If they fix it and the odor problems stop, we don't need this order; but so far the odor complaints continue," Galante said.

Huy Fong's green-capped chili bottles are hugely popular and are a fixture at restaurants around the world. The first Sriracha Festival, which was held in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend, drew hundreds of fans. Tran was there sporting a T-shirt that said, "I put Sriracha on my Sriracha."

The company had operated out of two buildings in nearby Rosemead since the late 1980s until it opened the large factory in Irwindale this year.

All of the chili needed for producing the year's sauce is processed and stored between September and December.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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