Sriracha factory complaints: Irwindale wants plant temporarily shut down


The city of Irwindale filed a lawsuit Monday asking a judge to stop production at the Huy Fong Foods factory on Azusa Canyon Boulevard. Residents nearby have been complaining of burning eyes, irritated throats and headaches from the chili odor.

"We've got residents that can no longer enjoy the outside," said City Manager John Davidson. "They have headaches, they have coughing and then obviously, their eyes are being irritated."

Davidson says the Sriracha plant is the source of those problems, and residents and neighboring businesses have been complaining about the fumes from all the peppers.

"The smell is real strong, and it kind of burns our eyes and burns our lungs and stuff," said Lawrence Castro of Irwindale.

But Hoy Fong Foods officials aren't buying it. They brought us into the plant to get a whiff of the sauce-making process. Inside the plant, there's no denying how pungent the peppers are.

They also took us up top to the roof, where six exhaust fans ventilate the plant. The Sriracha fumes coming out were considerably less spicy.

"We have a filtration system installed already," said Adam Holliday, director of operations at Hoy Fong Foods.

Holliday says the plant just cleared an inspection by the South Coast Air Quality Management District last week. And he pointed out that they have another plant in Rosemead that has been in operation for over 30 years, and they have not had any issues there.

Not everyone around the plant has been affected by the fumes. Young Ja Whang, who runs a convenience store right across the street from Huy Fong Foods, keeps the doors wide open.

"Sometimes it smells, I know, but it's not bad," Whang said.

Irwindale is asking a judge to temporarily shut down the plant until it agrees to install a half-million-dollar filtration system -- something Davidson says shouldn't be a problem for a company with sales around $100 million a year.

As for David Tran, the Vietnamese immigrant who turned the hot sauce into a global company, he says he has liked Irwindale from the beginning, "but now, seems like Irwindale (is) not friendly to me."

City officials say they expect to hear back from the judge on Thursday.

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