The expert who nose fried chicken

Philippe Najean speaking in Toronto at Odour Management Conference 2015. Image still from Scentroid YouTube

A WORLD-RECOGNISED odour expert with 20 years’ smelling experience has been brought in to conduct patrols and sniff out Vincent’s fried chicken odours. 

For 12 months residents around Lake Street just south of Hyde Park have been concerned by intense “greasy, rancid, burnt and garlic-like” fried chicken odours stemming from 7 Grams which advertises itself as serving up “irresistible fried chicken”.

A few months back council staff made the owners install a chimney, stack and ventilation system. But despite it meeting national standards it still wasn’t enough to diminish the smell, so in June residents petitioned Vincent council to take action. 

Vincent brought in the big guns: World-renowned odour expert Philippe Najean. Trained in France as a chemical engineer, he started an olfactometry lab in Paris in 2001, and led the French Standardisation Committee for dynamic olfactometry – a method of scientifically measuring odour concentration. He was one of the main odour policy advisers to France’s environment minister, and his olfactory sensitivity is tested according to AS/NZS standards.

Mr Najean’s furnished Vincent with a 26-page report detailing a series of odour patrols spent sniffing out the extent of Vincent’s fried chicken smells, detailing wind conditions and noting that when winds were high “an obvious odour from the restaurant could be recognised at a distance up to 100m from the restaurant’s stack, and a subtle odour at a distance up to 140m”. 

He concluded “the claims made by the residents about the odour impacts have been verified following six odour patrols performed in the vicinity of the restaurant under different wind conditions”.

The restaurant’s hood and grease captures and fume-extracting ducts appeared to be working efficiently, but the power of fried chicken is just too strong: “The air is still loaded with odorous compounds,” Mr Najean wrote. 

There’s no simple fix: Even boosting the stack by several metres won’t help since the odour will still get trapped by the Northbridge Hotel nearby. 

Mr Najean mentioned high tech solutions such as a “cold plasma/UV ionisation system or ozone injection technologies” that were designed for decontamination and antimicrobial measures, but noted the cost, power use, maintenance and space requirements made them a pretty unlikely solution for a chicken restaurant.

The only viable option left is to dilute the chicken plume at the ventilation stack before it’s emitted into the atmosphere.

Residents don’t think dilution is enough. Petitioner Lynley Coen told this week’s council briefing “once the odour’s inside my house, no amount of air freshener or oil burning can mask the smell that lingers for hours. The outcome being sought by residents is the cessation, not just the dilution of this polluting odour.”

Vincent staff have, for the first time in the council’s existence, issued the business a Health Act Notice requiring them to find some way to stop emitting odours. 

Ms Coen said: “I note the business has been given notice requiring cooking odours to be abated by November 23… by November 23 it will be 12 months that the neighbourhood has endured this odour, which I have stated here previously impacts on both the mental and physical wellbeing of residents.”

By DAVID BELL

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