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Sriracha Shutdown: Hot Sauce Lessons on Local Privilege and Race

Ernesto Hernandez Lopez, Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law


"Sriracha Shutdown: Hot Sauce Lessons on Local Privilege and Race" Free Download
Seton Hall Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2015

ERNESTO HERNANDEZ LOPEZ, Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

In 2013, Huy Fong Foods, maker of the trendy hot sauce sriracha, fought in court to stay open. The Los Angeles suburb of Irwindale tried to enjoin all sauce production, arguing that "offensive chili odors" created a public nuisance. This was an unexpected development because Huy Fong was recently invited to relocate to Irwindale and air quality regulators found no problems. Sauce lovers and the media closely watched this spicy legal drama, dubbed the "sriracha-apocalypse." Originally created for Vietnamese phở soup, sriracha is extremely popular worldwide.

This conflict points to a suburban racialized exclusion, sourced in municipal legal powers. With a population that is over ninety percent Latino, Irwindale was incorporated to capitalize on racial divisions. Mining companies sought these divisions in order to benefit from low taxes. Incorporation created a legal privilege in municipal powers to exclude outsiders. Irwindale's public nuisance lawsuit to shutdown sriracha exemplifies such a tactic. Eyeing this food conflict, this Article uses critical approaches to race and geography to illustrate the influence local government law has on race relations in the suburban United States. This Article also illustrates how municipal legal powers result in racialized exclusion, despite race neutral legal positions and a lack of racist animus.


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