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Southern California city drops bill against Sriracha hot sauce plant

By Dana Feldman

IRWINDALE California (Reuters) - Lawmakers in a Southern California city dismissed a bill on Wednesday that would have declared a popular hot sauce manufacturer a public nuisance due to smells that residents near the factory complained were sickening.

Lawmakers in the Los Angeles suburb of Irwindale had considered declaring Huy Fong Foods, maker of the fiery Sriracha sauce, a nuisance after residents near the factory complained that peppery fumes were giving them headaches and irritating their eyes and throats.

But at a city council hearing on Wednesday, three council members and Mayor Mark Breceda voted unanimously to dismiss the resolution.

"We have to keep employment in Irwindale. We have to expand. It's good for Irwindale. It's good for California," Breceda said.

Huy Fong Foods, in a statement that was read out at the meeting, said it had already upgraded the air filtration system ahead of this year's chili harvest. Declaring the factory a nuisance would have allowed Irwindale, 20 miles (32 km) east of Los Angeles, to act on its own to remedy the fumes, with the company assuming any abatement costs.

Irwindale officials sued Huy Fong Foods last October due to the residents' complaints. The following month, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the hot sauce maker to curb any noxious emissions, although he stopped short of requiring a shutdown of the plant.

Huy Fong Foods has 70 full-time employees and 200 seasonal workers and produces over 20 million bottles of hot sauce yearly, packaged in distinctive squeeze bottles with a green cap and trademark rooster logo.

Huy Fong Foods has said it has received offers from some two dozen other towns and communities, including several in Texas, to move the factory there. U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas has sought to woo the company to his Los Angeles-area jurisdiction.

The $50 million factory opened in Irwindale in 2010, according to a Republican congressional candidate in the district that includes Irwindale.

(Writing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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