Without Clean Air Measures, Food Processing Emissions Can Cause Illness

Complaints from residents in Irwindale, Calif., about the odors emitted by a hot sauce factory threatened to close the facility down, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The factory makes Sriracha, a popular hot sauce that incorporates chilies and garlic as its main ingredients. The 650,000-square-foot factory processes about 100 million pounds of peppers a year for its sauces, according to USA Today. The smell of the hot sauce is emitted by the factory during the California jalapeno pepper harvest season between August to late October or early November in order to process the peppers as soon as possible.

One resident of the small town said the fumes from the factory owned by Huy Fong Foods had effects similar to pepper spray, the Pasadena Star-News reported.

Manuel Ortiz Jr., son of City Councilman H. Manuel Ortiz, said the odor and fumes caused his eyes to burn as well as resulted in him gagging and coughing, according to court documents. He said he had to shut the windows to his home and switch on the air conditioning to avoid the fumes.

Other residents have complained about similar symptoms involving coughing and burning sensations.

“I recall an afternoon around mid-September of this year when my boys were playing in the front yard of my home when my 10-year-old son began severely coughing, his eyes began to burn and he said his breathing felt weird,” resident Yolanda Priscilla Zepeda wrote.

Factory upgrades air filtration system
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled on Oct. 31 that the Sriracha factory can remain open following attempts by nearby residents to close down the factory until Huy Fong Foods could mitigate its strong smell, according to USA Today.

Adam Holliday, director of operations at Hoy Fong Foods, said the company has a filtration system installed. The hot sauce maker recently announced it had improved its filtration system to reduce the strong smell.

“The company has taken recent steps to enhance its filtration system and is continuing to be proactive and monitor the situation,” a statement from Huy Fong said. “Huy Fong Foods is proud to be a member of the Irwindale community and growing with it.”

John Tate, an attorney for Huy Fong, said the company has installed air filtration systems and will cooperate with the South Coast Air Quality Management District in monitoring the air quality.

A hearing has been set for Nov. 22 that will decide whether the factory will have to be shut down to further address its odor issues.

Indoor air pollution and air quality news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.