Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Los Angeles, is determined to sell Huy Fong Foods, the makers of Sriracha Hot sauce, on the idea of moving their factory to San Fernando Valley. The saucemakers have been fighting with the city of Irwindale over the city’s proposal to designate the factory as a public nuisance because of its smell.
Cardenas said, “As the city of Los Angeles, we’d love to have a facility like this in our area. We’d welcome it. It’s jobs. It’s not about how good the product tastes at the end of the day. Our highest priority is making sure that we keep products made in America.”
The owner of Huy Fong Foods, David Tran, has been the recipient of numerous overtures from lawmakers around the nation since his battle with Irwindale went public. Representatives from Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, and Texas have solicited his business. Even someone as prominent as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted Monday: “#Sriracha may not be welcome in California, but you’d be welcomed with open arms and eager taste buds in Texas.”
Cardenas told Tran after a tour of the factory, “Hopefully, you stay here, and if not, hopefully you can stay in Los Angeles and continue to work here. But we don’t want you to go to Texas, we don’t want you to go to Missouri, we don’t want you to leave.”
Tran bluntly answered, “We’re not leaving, but we need to go.”
The problems for Tran began when residents complained that the smell from the factory caused nosebleeds and coughing fits. The smell was at its worst in the autumn, when the chili peppers were harvested. But Tran has insisted he is constantly trying to mitigate the effects of the work done in the factory, saying, “Our processing line, 33 years ago, it was spicy, so with my experience, every year we change it. I want to keep the workers happy in the room and feel more comfortable. Otherwise, nobody work for me.”
Tran stated that his business has grown so exponentially that by 2017 the present site will be too small. He estimated that the farms working with him will harvest 120 million pounds of chilies in 2014. He said, “We need the land to build, if in your area, the land is suitable, we’ll build one over there, and if Texas has the land we’ll build it.” But he also said he would likely keep the present site: “We need to keep running to make money and invest somewhere more than one to keep the demand for orders overseas.”
His fear is that once the 90-day grace period expires after a public nuisance order is issued, the city will use “contraptions” to inhibit the work of chili grinding. Tran has no desire to move his factory out of the country, though he grew up in China. He said, “My dream is the Sriracha, the Asian hot sauce made in U.S.A. and ship to all over the globe, anywhere. I promise that I won’t go overseas to build factory. I build in U.S.A., my hot sauce only made in U.S.A.”
Irwindale will likely vote for the public nuisance order Wednesday night, which will give Huy Fong Foods until July 22 to address the problem before the city fixes the factory itself.