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Sriracha hot sauce maker erects defiant banner in legal dispute (photos)

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Huy Fong Foods founder David Tran has said little since a judge last week ordered his company to stop the smell of Sriracha chili sauce from seeping out of its Irwindale factory and irritating neighbors' eyes and throats.

But Tran sent a message of defiance with a bright green banner outside the facility that reads: “No tear gas made here."

Irwindale's attorney Fred Galante said Monday he was disappointed to see the banner raised. "That just doesn't strike me as a cooperative tone," he said.

Whether the banner — photographed by the Pasadena Star-News on Friday — is indicative of whether the company will seek an appeal of the judge's decision is unknown. A company representative said Monday that Tran had no comment other than a brief statement released last week.

According to the city of Irwindale, there's been no contact with the company since Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien issued a preliminary injunction Nov. 26 requiring a stop to operations that create annoying odors.

Another year until the strongest smells return

The company has until Dec. 9 to make comments on the preliminary injunction order.

Irwindale officials say Huy Fong Foods could meet the terms of the order by installing a more robust filtration system. City attorney Galante acknowledged it would be hard to know whether any fixes are working until next fall. That's when the factory grinds up freshly-harvested peppers and chilis — the part of manufacturing that creates the strongest odors and generates the most complaints.

But Galante said the city would be willing to drop the case prior to chili-grinding season if an expert is willing to vouch for the efficacy of the company's remediation efforts. 

Galante said should odor problems arise again, the city would have the right to refile its complaint. Even though Judge Robert O'Brien could find no "credible" link between the smell and public health complaints, he wrote that the city was likely to prevail in a "public nuisance" case.

Sriracha Philly cheesesteaks, anyone?

Sriracha has exploded in popularity over the last several decades, and its flap with Irwindale has brought world-wide attention and spawned fears among passionate fans that they could be on the cusp of a major "rooster sauce" shortage.

Tran has not allayed those concerns. In his statement after the judge's decision, he said a factory shutdown would mean 200,000 fewer bottles of Sriracha manufactured every day.

Irwindale is a relatively new host city for the company. Huy Fong Foods started moving operations into its Irwindale facility last year after it began to outgrow its old one in Rosemead.

In stark contrast to Irwindale's contentious relationship with Huy Fong Food, Rosemead has had no complaints with the company, City Manager Jeff Aldred said Monday. In fact, he said, Rosemead awarded the company an award for being a good corporate citizen several years ago.

"We were sorry to see them go," Aldred said.

Officials in at least one other city are capitalizing on Huy Fong Foods' problems with Irwindale and inviting the company to move across the country.  In Philadelphia, a councilor said he is scouting sites for a potential Sriracha plant.

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