Consumer Staples

Sriracha fight set to simmer a little longer

Sriracha factory in hot water

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien heard testimony Friday from attorneys for the city of Irwindale, Calif., and the owner of the Sriracha plant, but the judge held off making an immediate decision whether to temporarily idle the factory.

The city sought the temporary injunction to stop the grinding processing at the plant owned by Huy Fong Foods, maker of a popular Sriracha hot chili sauce. The city contends the facility's grinding of hot peppers is causing neighbors near that plant to smell odors and suffer symptoms such as burning eyes and irritated throats.

O'Brien seemed surprised there was no final report on the odor issue available from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), a regulatory agency overseeing air quality control in the region. The judge heard testimony that AQMD took samples around the plant but still hasn't issued its final report on the odor case.

"I really had anticipated more information from your side," the judge said to plant attorney John Tate.

(Read more: Sriracha hot sauce lawsuit heads to LA court)

Tate responded, "We provide what we have."

Stephen Oustot, an attorney for the city, told the judge the AQMD information could be faulty. "They did inspections during the day," said Oustot, emphasizing the the evening is when the odor problem is a bigger concern to neighbors outside the plant in Irwindale. "All our declarations of people who complain are dusk to dawn," said Oustot. "The difference is night and day."

Tate told the judge there was no longer a need to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the processing at the plant. He indicated that the grinding of the peppers has already been completed for the current season.

"Grinding only occurs two to three months of the year," said Tate. "That activity is not going on. There is nothing to enjoin because that's not going on."

However, attorneys for the city of Irwindale said they will continue to seek a temporary injunction halting production at the Sriracha plant. They also are requesting a trial in the case, although Oustot indicated no trial date has been scheduled—and it may not happen until "spring or summer."

Last month, the judge turned down the Irwindale's request for a temporary restraining order against the Sriracha maker. Today's hearing was the city's second attempt to idle the factory.

Tate told reporters outside the courtroom he expected the judge to make a decision on Irwindale's request for a preliminary injunction in about two weeks—and indicated it would likely be mailed to the parties. "Be nice to have it over," Tate added.

In remarks outside court, Huy Fong Foods attorney Tate said that the Sriracha maker gave residents tours of the facility "and they didn't complain. Maybe there's a smell or a problem but they haven't linked it to my client."

Jeff Daniels