Food Policy

Sriracha Triumphs Over Government Meddling



Viva la Sriracha. The city of Irwindale, California, yesterday dropped its declaration that Huy Fong Foods, maker of the famous hot sauce, is a pungent "public nuisance."

Reuters explains that "at a city council hearing on Wednesday, three council members and Mayor Mark Breceda voted unanimously to dismiss the resolution" that was made last month and "would have allowed Irwindale, 20 miles east of Los Angeles, to act on its own to remedy the fumes, with the company assuming any abatement costs."

"I will say that I believe that not always lawsuits are good for any business or any community. It's not only hurtful but expensive. I don't believe at this point that it was the right way to go," said Mayor Mark Breceda.

The squabbling began last year when reports emerged that some residents of the 1,500-person town experienced watery eyes and sore throats due to the smells emitted by the Huy Fong factory. However, L.A. Weekly's Dennis Romero was skeptical, noting that "most of the odor complaints have come from four nearby homes, one of which is occupied by the relative of a city councilman. That councilman, Hector Ortiz, recused himself from discussion and voting on the matter because, he says, he owns property near the plant." And, the city was trying to sell property next to the factory at the time.

Even the judge who ordered a partial shutdown of the factory said that there was a "lack of credible evidence" that the makers of the award-winning condiment were responsible for the poor air quality in the primarily industrial town.

California's health regulators changed their own rules in December as they demanded a 30-day hold on operations, which created fear of a national Sriracha shortage.

David Tran, CEO of the $80 million business, recently accused the city council of acting like a "local king" and compared their governance to that of his birth country—Communist Vietnam. He received numerous offers to move his operation to more business friendly states, but decided to stay and agreed to install stronger air filters in his factory to contain the peppery smells.

Check out Reason TV's coverage of the saucy standoff here:

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  1. Bob Machuca, of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said the resolution showed California is “open for business.”

    I’m skeptical about the California “is open for business” message. Sriracha is a well known and much loved food item. Losing a company like Huy Fong to AZ or TX would be an embarrassment to CA. So extraordinary efforts were made to work out the conflicts. But sure as hell, if you manufacture something mundane like brake pads, or servomotors you will be hounded, regulated, and destroyed by California governmnet.

    1. “I’m skeptical about the California “is open for business” message.”

      Yeah, they put the gun away in one very visible case and that means the state is open for business?

    2. If you assembled brake components, or worked in a shop, you may have been exposed to asbestos. Although it’s unlikely you breathed enough of the right kind of asbestos for anything to have happened to you, there’s a great-big-ole pile of absestos settlement money out there, leftover from all the companies we sued into bankruptcy.

      Come and gitcha some!

      Bernstein, Severs and Jones, Attorneys at Law

      1. I always figured the Navy should have paid that money out since they were the ones who mandated its use and covered up or ignored the health effects.

    3. Eh. The foodies love Sriracha, so this is a case of hipster indignation happening to correlate with the “right thing to do”. Seriously, though, why did Sriracha take off like a rocket two or three years ago after being just a staple of Asian markets for at least a decade?

      1. The end of ratent lacism?

      2. It’s got to be decades. I remember seeing bottles of it at Chinese restaurants many years ago.

        1. I was going to write that. I swear I remember seeing it at the Thai Noodle House in Austin in the mid-90s, but, uh… how to say this… they all look alike to me.

      3. I’ve loved Sriracha since before it was cool, my parents always kept it stocked since the 90s and I’ve followed their lead. Out hipstering the hipsters!

  2. h/t to Old Man with Candy who first mentioned this in the AM links.

    1. Zenon, the ungrateful bastard who can’t even spell “Xenon” correctly. I may sue to get my h/t; my attorney, Mr. Saul Goodman, will be in contact.

  3. He should have skipped town, just to spite the fuckers and pay taxes to someone else.

    1. Well, maybe he felt a sense of loyalty to the employees. Don’t know, but always good to hold up a Selfridge-like counterpoint to the capitalist parodies which progs always trot out.

  4. However, L.A. Weekly’s Dennis Romero was skeptical, noting that “most of the odor complaints have come from four nearby homes, one of which is occupied by the relative of a city councilman.

    Follow the money, or, in this case, the scummy runoff from that one house.

    1. I think the term is “extortion”.

  5. Tran was standing his ground, but honestly, he needs to man up and throw threats around. He has an insanely popular brand with loyal customers. I’m glad he gets to stay where his roots are and where he is comfortable, but I was kind of hoping he moved to Texas or Louisiana.

    Also, ever so slightly OT: I saw this the other day and think its totally righteous. It’s expensive for a microboard so hopefully the price comes down after the summer.

  6. I’ve mentioned this before. The population of Irwindale, CA is 1436. It is an enclave in the greater Los Angeles metropolis of 10 million.

    Irwindale, like Vernon, and to some extent Commerce, CA are whatever the word is for the opposite of a bedroom community. Industry! Yes there is town just south of Irwindale called the City of Industry. Calibrate your enthusiasm.

    1. My sympathy went up a bit when I drove by the Huy Fong building. It’s directly across the street from a tract of homes that is older than I am.

  7. Monterey Shale: Fracking’s Great Moment Of Derp

    The US energy world was rocked yesterday by a new Energy Information Agency report that significantly cut the projection of recoverable oil from the massive Monterey Shale formation in California. That’s “cut” as in chopped, shredded, and mashed to a bloody pulp. How bad is the damage? Well, just a few years ago in 2011 the projection was for 13.7 billion barrels, and yesterday’s update brought it down to about 600 million. That’s a 96 percent drop for those of you keeping score at home.…..ment-derp/

    1. You mean the science was not, after all, settled?

    2. I hired Palin’s Buttplug for $8.25/hr to mow my lawn yesterday but nothing was accomplished. Then I shoved a hot soldering iron up a toy rabbit’s ass while he watched. The lawn is now spectacular.

      Who’s your daddy?

    3. Yeah, shitball, we’ll trust the people who don’t have any skin in the game rather than those risking their money.

    4. Interesting. So they originally estimated based on other US formations, which it turns out Monterey behaves differently. Sucks for California and the producers who bet on Monterey being like Bakken and Permian.

  8. I suspect all this means is that the politicians are in the pocket of Big Sriracha.

    1. Funny though, no one ever talks about being in the pocket of Big Government.

      1. Big Government doesn’t have pockets, only bowels.

        1. Who needs a pocket when they can reach into yours whenever they desire?

    2. “Big Sriracha.”

      I know they’ve corrupted the SF city government!

  9. “”””””However,L.A. Weekly’s Dennis Romero was skeptical, noting that “most of the odor complaints have come from four nearby homes, one of which is occupied by the relative of a city councilman.”””””””

    And where does Dennis Romero expect the odor complaints to come from, homes on the other side of town? What ever happened to the rule that your rights end when they meet someone elses nose, especially when that nose is on their own property?

    And since the place only has a 1,000 or do residents its not surprising that some are related to the city councilman

    1. He was skeptical of the complaints because after extensive independent observation and testing, none of the adverse effects claimed could be observed. From city, county and state environmental departments to an independent private environmental consulting firm, no one verified that the plant indeed caused these symptoms. Which is why being related to the council member is relevant. Because it was the relative that pushed the council member to push the city attorney to get involved. That is the only reason the suit made it as far as it did. Previous attempts at suing Huy Fong were scrapped because there was no proof of harm.

  10. What ever happened to the rule that your rights end when they meet someone elses nose, especially when that nose is on their own property?

    People realized it was a stupid platitude that children use , especially when discussing an odor in the air you do not own.

    1. Yeah, fuck property rights

      Sup Tony

  11. I have been in that plant and while it is a good thing they seem to be working this out I think someone has been persuaded to ignore the problem.

    When i cook with chilies, My wife and on of my children have to leave because it really bothers their breathing. That chili effect is much stronger in the vicinity of this plant. This is not a govt created, pretend problem.

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