A Spicy Debate: The Sriracha Saga Continues

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Few foods have garnered a cult following that Sriracha hot sauce has. The bright red hot sauce with a green cap and a rooster on the front is beloved by Americans of all walks of life. It has become so iconic that you can buy everything from rather tongue-in-cheek men’s boxer shorts (with the rooster-adorned bottle over … well, you know) to coffee mugs and t-shirts with the logo emblazoned upon them. Entire cookbooks are dedicated to the beloved hot sauce, but for residents of Irwindale, California, the production of this magical red stuff is anything but beloved.

AIR QUALITY REDUCTION IN CALIFORNIA

Last year, residents caused enough of a stink about Huy Fong Foods’ factory that Judge Robert H. O’Brien declared it a public nuisance and shut production down for a few days. Residents reported symptoms that include heartburn, nosebleeds and exaggerated asthma in response to the pepper fumes released into the air. Although Judge O’Brien didn’t feel that these claims had definitive origins in the pepper sauce production, the smell alone was enough to warrant further investigation and grounded production to a halt for a short time.

TEXAS’ FIGHT FOR SRIRACHA

In light of Sriracha’s controversy, local officials from Texas, namely Dallas suburb Denton, have traveled to California in an effort to woo Huy Fong Foods’ owner David Tran to the Lone Star State. For the most part, residents are excited about the opportunity; the hashtag #sriracha2denton exploded on Twitter as groups of Texans campaigned in favor of the factory’s move. Apparently no one’s worried about subjecting themselves to nosebleeds in exchange for local Sriracha production.

But there’s a bigger concern here than just the stink caused by the three months of pepper grinding. The jalapeno peppers that provide much needed spice to the sauce have to be grown somewhere. If the factory moves to Texas—which is unlikely, in all honesty, but not impossible—the peppers would probably be grown in state. This is a problem since the current drought conditions in the south haven’t spared Texas.

In fact, water levels in North Texas reservoirs are only about 65.5 percent full, prompting extreme water regulations and warnings against over-consumption. Wichita Falls, a city about an hour and a half away from Denton, is already turning to wastewater recycling because the water shortage has become such a concern. Please tell me you read Justin’s story on that! LINK

So what makes the city of Denton—or any other city in Texas, for that matter—think they can support the huge agriculturally based production of Huy Fong Foods? I mean, maybe Sriracha fans won’t mind their peppers being watered with poo water, but I think I’d like to shy away from any factory that not only reduces the air quality in its city, but also threatens to suck the water supplies dry.

AND THE SAGA CONTINUES …

On Wednesday, May 28, the city of Irwindale voted to drop its nuisance complaint over the local Sriracha processing plant. Mayor Mark Breceda, City Manager John Davidson, and Councilman Julian Miranda met with David Tran in a closed-door meeting following a tour of the plant. Although we don’t really know what happened in said meeting, it looks like Sriracha will stay put … for now.

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Megan Winkler

Eco-nerd, solar power enthusiast, DIY diva and professional coffee drinker, Megan has written everything from courses in healthcare and psychology to interior design and cooking advice. She has a master’s degree in military history, owns two chainsaws, is a collector of strange trivia and a world renowned Pinterest pro. She is constantly looking for better ways to do things.

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