Council warn Edinburgh restaurants on dangers of carbon monoxide fumes

Using charcoal for cooking emits carbon monoxide. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Using charcoal for cooking emits carbon monoxide. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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RESTAURANTS and fast food outlets in Edinburgh are being warned about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from burning charcoal in their kitchens after flats were filled with potentially deadly fumes.

• 190 Edinburgh food businesses have been warned of the possible dangers of carbon monoxide fumes

• Warning comes after a recent incident where carbon monoxide detectors were set off in a property above a restaurant.

Council health inspectors have written to 190 food businesses in the capital this week highlighting the danger of carbon monoxide fumes being generated by using real charcoal in their kitchens.

The restaurants and fast food outlets have been targeted by the Environmental Health officers as they are known to use this traditional method of cooking. The warning comes after an incident recently where carbon monoxide detectors were set off in a residential property above a restaurant. Investigations showed the restaurant was using real charcoal and that the flue to the kitchen extraction system was leaking into the flats above.

Fortunately no-one was harmed but the consequences could have been more serious.

Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Although there have been no serious incidents in Edinburgh it is important that food businesses in the capital are aware of the health risks associated with burning real charcoal.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can prove fatal in extreme cases and the Council has a duty to ensure all premises are operating safely within the law. We would recommend any restaurants that have concerns to contact our Food, Health and Safety team.”

The warning does not relate to char grills, tandoori ovens or other appliances that use natural gas and artificial coals often referred to as lava rock. However it is very important to have all gas appliances maintained and serviced regularly by competent Gas Safe registered engineers.

There is no ban on the use of charcoal for cooking indoors but it must be carefully controlled. When charcoal burns it produces significant amounts of carbon monoxide and if used indoors this dangerous gas can build up and lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The gas continues to be released for a long time after the charcoal starts to cool down. When used in outdoor barbeques charcoal is not a problem as the carbon monoxide freely dilutes in the open air.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, confusion, shortness of breath and can lead to loss of consciousness and even death in extreme cases. The nature and extent of symptoms will vary from person to person.