This essay describes the recent “Sriracha Apocalypse” dispute between Huy Fong Foods, maker of the popular hot sauce Sriracha, and Irwindale, California. For six months, the world watched as it appeared that Huy Fong’s new plant would be legally shut down by this tiny Los Angeles suburb. Irwindale argued that odors and fumes from the grinding of jalapeño peppers to make Sriracha were creating a public nuisance. This seemed odd, considering that Irwindale had eagerly invited Huy Fong to relocate its chile-grinding operations to their community and that air-quality regulators had not found a problem. The essay highlights three important lessons from this spicy legal drama regarding food and place, the legality of foodways, and California’s role in these contemporary food debates.

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