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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday ordered a hot sauce maker to stop emitting an 'annoying, irritating and offensive' spicy odor from a chili-processing plant, after people living nearby complained it was damaging their health.
Residents of Irwindale, a small city east of Los Angeles, filed a lawsuit in late October saying Huy Fong Foods had refused to take sufficient action to abate noxious fumes strong enough to irritate their eyes and throats.
The company's red Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, sold in clear squeezy bottles with a green cap and trademark rooster logo, has become one of the top-selling condiments in the United States.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien ruled on Tuesday that the plant must cease any operations that cause - and make swift changes to help mitigate - the tear-inducing fumes, Irwindale attorney Stephen Onstot told Reuters.
However, the judge denied a request that all operations be shut down, Onstot said.
"Neither the city, nor the judge, was specific in terms of what has to be done to cease the odors and left how that goal is achieved up to the defendant," Onstot said.
The judge imposed his order as an interim measure while the court considers the lawsuit from residents. The suit says some have complained of headaches and others have been forced to remain indoors, or even temporarily flee their homes, to get relief from the smell of locally grown jalapeno chili peppers being crushed at the plant.
O'Brien pointed in his ruling to a "lack of credible evidence" linking health problems to the plant, but said the odor appears to be "extremely annoying, irritating and offensive to the senses, warranting consideration as a public nuisance," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Huy Fong Foods was founded 33 years ago by David Tran, an ethnic Chinese immigrant from Vietnam. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
John Tate, an attorney for the company, has said in court that it has installed a filtration system to take care of excessive odor. He acknowledged that it did not resolve the problem completely but said it had "certainly improved the situation."
The case is not expected to come to trial until "a few months down the road," Onstot said.
Additional reporting and writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Mark Trevelyan