Sriracha lawsuit: Judge denies Calif. city's bid to close hot sauce plant

This Tuesday Oct. 29, 2013 photo shows Sriracha chili sauce moves along a production line during at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013. AP Photo/Nick Ut

LOS ANGELES A judge has denied a Southern California factory town's attempt to shut down production of the popular Sriracha chili sauce over complaints about the pungent smell of pepper and garlic fumes emanating from the factory.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien rejected the city of Irwindale's initial bid Thursday to cease operations at the Huy Fong Foods plant until the company can reduce the odor.

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

A Nov. 22 hearing was scheduled on a preliminary injunction.

The sprawling 650,000-square-foot factory processes some 100 million pounds of peppers a year into Sriracha (pronounced sree-YAH-chah) and two other popular Asian food sauces.

The peppers get washed, mixed with garlic and a few other ingredients and roasted during this time of the year, when jalapeno peppers are harvested in central California and trucked to the 2-year-old plant. The pungent smell of peppers and garlic fumes is sent through a carbon-based filtration system that dissipates them before they leave the building, but not nearly enough say residents.

They complained the odor gives them headaches, burns their throat and makes their eyes water.

Huy Fong executives said they were cooperating with the city to reduce the smell, but balked at the city's suggestion of putting in a new, $600,000 filtration system that may not be necessary.

The company said it was looking into other alternatives when the city sued.

Sriracha's little plastic squeeze bottles with their distinctive green caps are ubiquitous in restaurants and home pantries around the world.

Company founder David Tran said his privately held business took in about $85 million last year.

CBS News' Ben Tracy and his team were the first television cameras let inside the brand new $40 million Sriracha plant in Irwindale. This month is peak production and 200,000 bottles are filled each day.

The main ingredient in Sriracha is a spicy red jalapeno pepper that is grown on a Calif. farm just 70 miles away.

Craig Underwood owns the farm and has worked for Tran for 25 years. They started with 50 acres of peppers and next year they'll plant 4,000.

"From the time they are picked, to the time they're ground, it's about six hours, and that's important to David," said Underwoord. "He wants it fresh, he wants them red, he wants them spicy and he wants them tasty."

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