Governor's Office Reps Visit Sriracha Sauce Factory in Feud With Residents

The hot sauce summit was called in the wake of a visit by Texas lawmakers who are hoping to lure the business from Southern California

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    State and local officials met with the owner of a factory that produces the popular Sriracha sauce. Neighbors say the factory also produces an offensive odor. Reggie Kumar reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Tuesday May 27, 2014. (Published Tuesday, May 27, 2014)

    Representatives from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office applied some hot sauce diplomacy Tuesday to a neighborhood dispute involving the maker of Sriracha and residents who don't approve of the odor coming from the Southern California factory.

    Huy Fong Foods has been feuding with Irwindale since late last year, when residents who lived near the factory in the town, about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, complained that the plant caused bad odors, coughing, headaches and heat that burns eyes.

    The dispute escalated when the city of Irwindale filed a lawsuit based on the residents' complaints. A judge temporarily declared the plant a public nuisance, forcing it to close for a short period of time.

    The flap attracted national headlines and led Texas lawmakers to visit the plant earlier this month, hoping to lure Tran's company to the Lone Star State. Officials from other locales, including Pennyslvania, have also reached out with offers to host the company in their respective regions.

    Now, the governor's office hopes it can facilitate an agreement between David Tran, the owner of Huy Fong Foods, and the Irwindale residents who are complaining about the factory. At mid-day representatives and local officials, including the mayor, toured the factory and had a look at where the chili grinding process is done.

    The officials were meeting behind closed doors after the tour and planned to provide an update after the talks.

    That process starts in August -- and so, too, do the offensive odors, neighbors said. Whether a new filtration system installed at the plant will improve conditions won't be known until the grinding process begins.

    "It's very, very spicy -- a lot of garlic smell," said resident Ann Stewart. "It hurts your eyes and burns your nose, and it gives you a headache."

    Mayor Mark Breceda said he want to work with the company to prevent them from moving.

    "We're worried about losing employees," said Breceda. "We want to put this to bed already. It's been going on too long.

    "We want to work, I've always told them. Unfortunately, the media never reports that. I've always said we want to work with you."

    Supporters of the plant say complaints of the "spicy and offensive odor" stem from only four  households. They also say the South Coast Air Quality Management District investigated and found no offensive emissions from the plant.

    In addition, the Republican Party of Los Angeles County recently passed a resolution expressing support for the company, the plant's backers said.

    Despite the tensions and overtures from out-of-state politicians, Tran has said he wants to stay in Southern California – as he doesn’t know whether the chili peppers required to make the hot sauce can grow well in the Rio Grande Valley.

    Tran started making the hot sauce in his home in 1980. He opened a 68,000-square-foot factory in Rosemead in 1986 and moved to the much larger Irwindale plant two years ago.

    In addition to the Sriracha hot sauce, the company also produces Chili Garlic Sauce, a ground chili pasted called Sambal Oelek and Sambal Badjak, a chili paste with onions.

    NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.

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