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Spicy fumes

People who live near Sriracha’s new factory say their eyes are burning

Sriracha hot sauce? Delicious. Sriracha in your eyes? Not so much.

Huy Fong Foods, which as we recently wrote processes millions of pounds of chili peppers a year, recently opened a new processing and bottling factory in Irwindale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, and local residents are complaining that the new plant is releasing eye-burning gas and aggressive odors.

The city filed a suit on Monday with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, reports the LA Times, requesting that Huy Fong halt production until the problem is fixed. City officials and the company reportedly met to work on a solution, but Huy Fong eventually denied there was an odor problem. It said its employees had long worked in similarly odor-ridden conditions and hadn’t complained, Irwindale city attorney Fred Galante told the LA Times. The city isn’t asking Huy Fong to magically cease all smells in a matter of days, but to lay out a plan of action to reduce them.

If Huy Fong is forced to shutter its factory, even temporarily, that would be a big problem for it. The company uses only fresh chilies to make Sriracha, which means it has to process them within a day of picking. And all of over 100 million pounds of chilies it uses each year are harvested and processed in a two to three-month period in the fall, which is right about now. So any setback could hit its production for the entire year.

Huy Fong, which has struggled to meet global demand for Sriracha ever since it began making the popular hot sauce back in 1980, invested heavily in its future when it opened the new plant earlier this year. The factory measures 655,000 square feet, more than double the size of the old one a few miles away in Rosemead, and is meant to allow Huy Fong to triple its Sriracha output—if it resolves the clashes with its neighbors, that is.

Huy Fong didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has yet to distribute any hot sauce bottled in Irwindale.

Read: The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce

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