Odours abatements in restaurants: standards and solutions

Odours deriving from restaurants activities can be a source of nuisance, to be handled using the proper abatement system

Odorous emissions deriving from restaurants activities or the cooking of food in professional kitchens do not constitute a risk for human health, as such.

However, the olfactive pollution these activities generate may have a negative impact on the quality of life for people living in the neighbourhood of kitchens, as well as on the quality of environmental air. 

This is the reason why, in Italy, starting from 2020, the abatement of odorous emissions coming from restaurants has been regulated by specific standards. 

Let us have a look at what laws foresee and solutions made available to those who operate in restaurants, or more generally people involved in cooking food as professionals. 

The problem of troublesome odours from restaurants and professional kitchens

Restaurants and supermarkets that are part of large chains, where food is being cooked, are often located in the historical districts of cities or in densely populated areas. Therefore, they are to be found in the neighbourhood of residential buildings (e.g. apartment buildings) and other commercial activities.

Furthermore, many restaurants are not equipped with stacks complying with standards, or may even completely lack such an equipment, thus causing emissions of fumes and cooking odours that become a nuisance for people who live close by. 

Negative effects that may be associated with “olfactive nuisance”, thus considered as severe, are for example

  • gastric problems;

  • headaches;

  • sleep disorders; 

  • loss of appetite. 

It is also possible to feel these effects when the odour has very low concentrations, usually much lower than those causing damages to health or having an impact on the environment. 

Therefore, restaurants managers should make sure - already when designing their kitchen - that strong odours generated by the cooking of food are not perceived in the neighbourhood as a source of olfactive nuisance, as this would lead to claims and complaints. 

What do standards foresee in this regard? 

Standards regarding odorous emissions in restaurants

Art. 674 of the Penal Code plays an essential role, but there are also other standards regulating olfactive pollution. 

According to Decree Law 152/2006 and further amendments (art. 1, attachment IV, paragraphs e-f; art. 272 paragraph 1), activities in kitchens, collective restaurants, cafeterias, deli counters and fry-shops, as well as bakeries, confectioneries and similar, making a daily overall use of no more than 300 kg of flour, do not need any environmental authorization to operate.

However, this does not imply that restaurants activities do not produce emissions, especially odours.

Troublesome odour emissions are subject to art. 844 of the Civil Code with reference to "normal tolerance” and art. 674 of the Penal Code as regards "stricter tolerance”.

Throughout years, more and more judgments were pronounced. More specifically, judgment 14467/2017 by the Court of Appeal became a landmark. The owner of an apartment on top of a restaurant appealed to a court, to ask for emissions of odours, smokes and noises originating from the restaurant to be stopped. 

Following this judgment, strong odours originating from domestic activities and restaurants became an olfactive nuisance and were associated with “the throwing of dangerous objects”, as defined in article 674 of the Penal Code (crime of nuisance). This norm refers to “things that might offend or dirty or molest people”: an abstract danger to other people's safety is sufficient: it is not necessary for the behaviour to have caused real damages.

In other words, art. 674 of the Penal Code establishes that "Whoever throws or pours, in a public or in a private place used by more people in common, anything that might offend, dirty or cause a nuisance to people, or, in cases not legally allowed, provokes emissions of gas, vapours or smokes that might cause these effects, will be punished by being arrested up to one month or have to pay a fine up to 206 Euros”.

With this infringement, the legislator intended to protect from risks deriving from the throwing of objects or from the pouring of things that might offend, dirty or cause a nuisance and from the emission of gas, vapours or smokes, thus ensuring public safety, meant as all the conditions concerning safety in life, physical integrity and people’s health, due to every person as such. 

It must be reminded that this is a penal offence. 

Guidelines for the abatement of odours due to cooking food

For a proper planning of restaurants activities and their management, an important technical support is represented by Guidelines on “Olfactive pollution due to cooking food” that are used, in particular, to evaluate and manage olfactive pollution caused by the cooking of food in professional kitchens

This document deals with the problem of odours emissions due to restaurants activities, with an analysis of the type of food, methods of cooking, type of exhaust system and characteristics of smokes exhaustion.

Factors that have an influence on the control of odours coming from cooking activities include:

  • the size of the kitchen (influence on odour intensity and necessary ventilation);
  • the type of food prepared (influence on the chemical composition of environmental air);
  • the type of cooking method and equipment used (influence on the quantity of fat, aqueous steam and temperature in the environment);
  • the characteristics of the suction hood;
  • presence of a system to clean smokes;
  • duct for smokes exhaustion;
  • height and structure of the stack; 
  • territorial context of the emission and, more specifically, proximity with respect to residential areas and position within cities historical districts. 

The following chart summarizes the types of odours and fats related to some commercial typologies of cuisine.

A list is also supplied for wetness and fats characteristics as regards given cooking devices.

Designing equipment for restaurants activities

Guidelines also indicate main solutions for the abatement of odours.

Commercial and handicraft activities may deal with the problem of olfactive nuisance by adopting preventive measures, such as designing and setting up odours abatement systems, with a further maintenance system and precautions for an efficient control and monitoring of odour emissions. 

The filtration system must be designed, set up and maintained to remain efficient and ensure proper performances. The layout of the plant must comply with given conditions: as an example, a high presence of smokes and odours deriving from frying or grilling food requires a bigger filtration system, if compared to other methods of cooking.

Therefore, how is it possible to eliminate odours due to the cooking of food in restaurants or deli counters in big supermarkets? 

Odour emissions abatement with the help of osmogenic barriers

Osmogenic barriers represent a most effective solution to abate both diffused and conveyed emissions. They imply setting up bars equipped with spraying nozzles directly inside the effluents exhaust stacks.

As regards osmogenic barriers, Labiotest developed an innovative technology that uses an ultrasound spraying system. 

Zephiro UTS is the ultrasound spraying system that, together with a neutralizing product, and set up on the suction duct upstream of exhaust stacks, spreads a specific micronized aerosol for the abatement of kitchen troublesome odours, with abatement results above 70%.

Unlike standard osmogenic barriers, it uses dry fog to abate odours. 

This odour abatement device minimizes water consumption, which is why it is possible to use it in industrial ducts. 

Zephiro is widely used in restaurants chains and supermarkets present on the Italian territory.