Many reading this will be unaware, (as I was) about not only how difficult it can be being a chef with Asthma, but indeed just how dangerous it can be also.
The tragic death this year of 19-year-old Lauren Reid at work in her kitchen in Glasgow has truly shocked all of us into learning more about Asthma and how we can both support our colleagues’ and raise awareness of this terrible illness.
Of course, there are many causes and facets to Asthma and we are no experts, but we very much see Asthma as an increasing illness that seriously effects many Chefs in the UK and so Unichef has committed itself to bringing support, education, and awareness to the issue.
Little is known of the effects of cooking with Asthma but a recent study in Norway has highlighted the dangers of inhaling Carcinogens and Acrylamides and often much more simple, everyday substances such as flour can be now considered a dangerous substance for many, and this research shows a clear increased risk of respiratory problems for chefs and Bakers who continuously inhale fumes and dust/flour.
Indeed, there have been many study’s in the USA of the increased risks associated with long term use of Trans Fatty Acids and the effects of breathing hot cooking oil. We must now look at the long-term practises of frying and grilling which create such toxic atmospheres and begin to realise the effects they have not just on the closest worker but all those within the kitchen.
Together with Laurens mum, Elaine Cunningham, we are now, in honour of Lauren, taking Asthma much more seriously and will now include Asthma in our Chef Wellbeing programs in the future and discuss the issue with chefs in much the same way as we do Mental Health and other health subjects.
UK chefs and employers must all now begin to think and behave in a different way to the toxic environment that kitchens can be and look not only at the causes and effects of asthma but indeed look at preventing needless deaths such as Lauren Reid’s in the future by being more aware of the dangers and signs of distress.
There is lots we can all do, and in Laurens name we need to start right now.