The factory where Sriracha, a widely popular chilli sauce, is produced has been declared a public nuisance in California because of the smell lingering around the area.
The city of Irwindale has now been given 90 days to reduce the odour before officials step into the factory, which churns 100 million lb (45.4 million kg) of chili pepper a year, and implement changes.
Lawyer John Tate, who represents Sriracha maker Huy Fong Foods accused the city of “flexing its muscle and thumbing Huy Fong in the eye” for declaring the sauce a nuisance.
The decision is the latest move against the manufacturer. Irwindale sued Huy Fong Foods in October and asked a judge to halt production at the factory after residents living downwind complained fumes from grinding the red hot chili peppers was making their eyes sting and causing headaches and coughing fits.
By this point, the annual pepper-grinding season, which runs from August to October, had already finished, although that didn't stop anxious restaurateurs and Sriracha obsessives who have followed the story have been stockpiling bottles.
In the meantime, several residents complained that the smell was persisting as Huy Fong Foods workers continued to bottle the popular hot sauce.
Lawyers for Huy Fong Foods have promised to produce an action plan within the next ten days and a system to control the smell by the start of the grinding season in June.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District said its inspectors have taken air samples inside the plant, and believed the information gathered should allow the factory and the city to resolve their differences.
The company was founded by Vietnamese immigrant David Tran, who began mixing up his distinctive sauce in a bucket at his home in 1980.
He said the privately held company took in about $85 million (£50 million) last year, adding it employs about 200 workers during the pepper-grinding season and 60 year-round.
Additional reporting by Associated PressReuse content