LOS ANGELES -- A judge refused today to order the closing of a factory that makes chili sauces after neighbors complained of spicy smells.
The California city of Irwindale, outside Los Angeles, had asked for Huy Fong Food's facility to be closed and that the company be forced to improve odor-filtering measures.
But Los Angeles Superior Court judge Robert O'Brien said there was not enough evidence to justify immediate closure of the factory, owned by America's biggest supplier of sauces popular internationally, notably in Asia.
"You're asking for a very radical order on 24-hour notice," the judge told lawyer June Ailin, representing Irwindale.
The legal action had threatened next year's supplies of Chili Garlic, Sambal Oelek, and the wildly popular Sriracha "rooster" sauce, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The chilis for next year's sauce supplies are all processed in a three-month time period that is just at its peak, after the peppers were harvested and ground within a single day to maintain their fresh taste, the Times said.
Burning Eyes, Throats Cited
Neighbors also complained about burning eyes and throats from the factory.
"The odors are so strong and offensive as to have caused residents to move outdoor activities indoors and even to vacate their residences temporarily to seek relief from the odors," said the city's lawsuit, filed Monday.
But company owner David Tran said air filters already prevent odors escaping as much as is physically possible -- and he also alleged that some of the complainants do not actually live next to the facility, but farther away.
"To filter 100%, I haven't found any engineer (who) can do it," the Vietnam-born businessman told local radio station KPCC before today's ruling, adding that the best that can be achieved is stopping 90% of smells from escaping. "The neighbor complained to us. We thought that, no, the punch of the chili won't (reach) 1,500 feet away. I don't buy it."
Sriracha sauce, of which Huy Fong Foods is the biggest producer in the United States, takes its name from the town of Si Racha in Thailand, where the hot sauce was first produced.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013