A Los Angeles Superior Court judge believes that the humans of Irwindale, California, are more important than Sriracha, the life-giving hot sauce with the comforting rooster on the bottle. That judge ordered the company that makes Sriracha hot sauce to shut down its Irwindale processing plant, which local residents say produced fumes that burned their eyes and throats.
The decision from Judge Robert H. O'Brien came after a November 22 hearing in a lawsuit filed against Huy Fong Foods, the creator of the most famous version of Sriracha, by Irwindale residents last month. It's unclear at this moment what the fine print of O'Brien's shutdown order entails, but the company is expected to halt any kind of operations that might produce the alleged odors and make changes to eliminate or lessen them before re-starting production.
The Los Angeles Times reports that O'Brien acknowledged that there was no evidence that the alleged fumes posed a health risk, but still sided with the residents:
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."
The injunction goes into effect as soon as O'Brien signs it. That could happen as early as Wednesday.
The only people who were happy with the judge's decision not to let Irwindale burn, are understandably Irwindale residents. "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," City Attorney Fred Galant told The Times.
Meanwhile, the rest of the nation is bracing itself for the unknown. Because no one seems to know what part of Sriracha production causes the fumes, its unclear how this will affect next year's batch of hot sauce. The company sold 20 million bottles last year and already struggles to meet demand for the increasing popular condiment. (Note: Sriracha has an expiration date, so hoarding will do you no good.) This year's peppers have already been harvested and ground, but they still have to get mixed and bottled. If the plant offline for very long, it could lead to serious shortage of burning mouths in 2014.
Back in October, Huy Fong Foods's director of operations Adam Holliday said that one thing the company looked at as a possible solution was a machine that would burn away the air and odor. It came with a price tag of $600,000.
inconsequential human sacrifices residents of Irwindale said that shutting down the company isn't their main goal. "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," Galante told The Times. Huy Fong Foods has not spoken about the incident.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.