Carbon monoxide poisoning from food preparation sickens restaurant patrons

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Officials in Hong Kong are investigating carbon monoxide poisoning in a restaurant that left 14 people needing hospital treatment.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health reported that the group ate a “hot pot” dinner using charcoal as cooking fuel in one room at a restaurant in Wan Chai. Hot pot is a shared meal that involves a pot of broth in the middle of the table with items such as vegetables and meat put in it to cook.

The six men and eight women developed symptoms including loss of consciousness, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, headache, shortness of breath and palpitation about two hours after the dinner started.

Ten of the 14 patients, aged between 23 and 39, are in a stable condition while the other four have been discharged from hospital.

Investigations found that while the air conditioner was on, the dining room windows were closed and the door was also shut for a long time during the hot pot meal, which may have caused the carbon monoxide level in the room to increase.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is a by-product from incomplete combustion of any fuel that contains carbon, such as wood, natural gas, gasoline and charcoal. The CHP reminded the public to use vented fuel-burning appliances in a well-ventilated area to cook.

Seizure of meat
Meanwhile, also in Hong Kong, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has raided certain shops suspected of selling chilled meat as fresh.

FEHD officers marked and sealed about 270 kilograms of suspected chilled pork at two licensed fresh provision shops at Kowloon City Road and Lok Shan Road, To Kwa Wan for further investigation.

The agency also started prosecutions against the licensees of three shops for suspected violations of the regulation on cleanliness of premises and placing of open food.

A FEHD spokesman said if sites are found to breach licensing conditions for the sale of chilled meat as fresh, the department will consider cancellation of their license.

“Anyone selling chilled meat without permission commits an offence and is liable to a maximum fine of HKD $50,000 (U.S. $6,400) and six months’ imprisonment on conviction. The department will continue to closely monitor the sale of fresh meat at the retail level and take stringent enforcement action to safeguard food safety and public health.”

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