Sriracha, the hot chili sauce so many adore, has been making headlines lately…and for all the wrong reasons. The city of Irwindale, California sued Huy Fong Foods on Monday, claiming the spicy scent of ground peppers is a public nuisance in violation of the municipal code. While lovers of the spicy sauce argue its byproducts are harmless, neighbors claim to have sore throats, burning eyes, and headaches. These alleged health concerns have brought Huy Fong Food face to face with a full-blown crisis that threatens the reputation of the family-owned business. As of right now, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled production of Sriracha can continue at the Irwindale factory and denied the city’s request for a temporary restraining order.

In any crisis, all parties want to know their voice is being heard.  Therefore, it is critical that Huy Fong openly communicates with concerned neighbors and expresses the appropriate amount of compassion. So far, Huy Fong Food’s response has been tone-deaf to say the least. Not only does their website not address the complaints, the only letters they do showcase are endorsements from their biggest supporters.

Given the company’s limited social media presence, Twitter and Facebook are likely not the best options. Therefore, whether it means holding a community forum, personally responding to angry letters, or making a public statement, Huy Fong must show all parties that they hear them and are working to reach an acceptable resolution. 

Will the public start associating Sriracha with words like “inconsiderate” or “nuisance” rather than “zesty”? The hearing has been set for November 22 to determine whether the hot-sauce factory should be shut down while it fixes alleged odor problems. Until then, addressing the complaints while reassuring loyal customers they will not have to eat bland rice without any kick would help preserve Huy Fong Food’s brand.