A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Tuesday ordered a Sriracha hot sauce plant in Irwindale to partially shut down in response to smell complaints from nearby residents.
Judge Robert H. O'Brien ruled in favor of the city and ordered sauce maker Huy Fong Foods to cease any kind of operations that could be causing the odors and make immediate changes that would help mitigate them.
The injunction does not order the company to stop operating entirely, or specify the types of actions that are required.
The city of Irwindale sued Huy Fong Foods on Oct. 21 after nearby residents complained of heartburn, inflamed asthma and even nosebleeds that they said were caused by the spicy odor coming from the hot sauce plant.
O'Brien acknowledged in his ruling that there was a "lack of credible evidence" linking the stated health problems to the odor, but said that the odor appears to be "extremely annoying, irritating and offensive to the senses warranting consideration as a public nuisance."
He also wrote that the odor could be "reasonably inferred to be emanating from the facility," and determined that the city is "likely to prevail" in declaring the odor a public nuisance, according to the ruling.
Irwindale officials applauded the judge's decision.
"We believe it's a strong ruling that acknowledges and is reflective of the concerns that the community has raised about the health impacts of the odor," said City Atty. Fred Galante.
Huy Fong officials did not return requests for comment Tuesday evening.
The ruling will take effect as soon as the judge signs the injunction, which Galante says will be filed as early as Wednesday.
It is unclear what the ruling means for next year's supply of Sriracha hot sauce. The factory harvests and grinds chilis for three months out of the year, and the grinding of this year's chilis has been completed.
But the mixing and the bottling of the sauce occurs on an ongoing basis. Galante said he did not know if the injunction applies to those aspects of production.
The city's goal is not to stop the production of the sauce, Galante said.
"We're going to try to keep having a conversation with Huy Fong and working out some collaborative way to test and make sure the odor problems are addressed," he said.
The case could still go to trial, but Galante said that the city hopes the matter can be resolved out of court.
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