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Chilies, like house guests, can be a real nuisance after a while

If you were wondering why there is a rooster on the bottle of Sriracha sauce, wonder no more. David Tran, the man who introduced Sriracha to the American public, was born in the year of the rooster. Tran moved to Los Angeles in 1979 from his native Vietnam. By the end of 1980, he had opened the Sriracha manufacturing operation in a downtown warehouse.

As the product's popularity grew, so did Huy Fong Foods Inc. The company outgrew its original space and moved to a new facility. In 2010, the company announced it would move its headquarters and manufacturing facility to Irwindale, a city northeast of Los Angeles. From newspaper reports at the time, the excitement was palpable, even if the process was slow. Huy Fong had already built a good reputation for itself by solely using chilies from a Ventura County farm. 

It took a couple of years to complete the office and manufacturing space. Sriracha and the company's other chili sauces did not go into full production at the Irwindale facility until 2013. Now, Huy Fong produces 20 million bottles of Sriracha every year.

The excitement about the 70 full-time and additional 125 or so seasonal jobs waned during 2013's chili season. From late summer to early fall, Huy Fong trucks in as many as 40 loads of chilies every day. The chilies are ground the same day they arrive, and the cycle continues, 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the chili season is over.

Anyone who has tasted Sriracha sauce knows just how hot it is. The red jalapenos that are the key ingredient are just as hot, and, apparently, grinding them releases that heat into the air. Not long after the grinding started last fall, residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the factory began to complain about the fumes.

The fumes were so bad, residents said, that their eyes burned and watered. They complained of coughing, even gagging whenever they went outside. Parents kept their children inside. Finally, the city council had to act.

The answer for the city was to declare the factory a public nuisance. Unfortunately, that sparked an acrid battle between the city and the company -- a dispute that we will discuss in greater detail in our next post.


New York Times, "Sriracha Factory Irritates Some California Noses, but Entices Politicians," Ian Lovett, May 13, 2014

Los Angeles Daily News, "Famous Sriracha 'Rooster Sauce' finally makes the move to new Irwindale factory," Lauren Gold, July 21, 2013

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