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Judge orders Calif. Sriracha plant to cease operations that cause odors

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013, file photo, Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.

A southern California judge has ordered a plant that manufactures the popular Sriracha hot sauce to cease operations that could be causing odors to emit from the factory after nearby residents complained of the smell.

Judge Robert H. O'Brien's ruling did not specify the required actions, nor does it mandate that the Irwindale, Calif. factory shut down completely. 

The city of Irwindale, approximately 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, sued Huy Fong Foods, the makers of Sriracha, on October 21 after residents complained of heartburn, inflamed asthma, and even nosebleeds as a result of the spicy aroma. 

O'Brien noted that there was a "lack of credible evidence" linking the smell to the health problems, but noted that the scent appeared to be "extremely annoying, irritating and offensive to the senses warranting consideration as a public nuisance."

Irwindale City Attorney Fred Galante praised the ruling, saying it "acknowledges and is reflective of the concerns that the community has raised about the health impacts of the odor."

Huy Fong Foods had argued that there was no reason to close the plant now because harvest season for red-hot Jalapeno peppers, the sauce's key ingredient, has passed. The factory mixes and bottles the sauce on a year-round basis, but only grinds the peppers for a period of three months out of the year. 

The ruling will take effect once an injunction is signed by the judge and filed, a process which could happen as early as Wednesday. 

Galante said that it was not the city's goal to stop production of the sauce, and expressed hope that the case would be resolved before trial. 

"We're going to try to keep having a conversation with Huy Fong and working out some collaborative way to test and make sure the odor problems are addressed," he told the Los Angeles Times. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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