Friday, June 02, 2006

Catch their drift

Get a whiff of the next consumer-liability issue that could put restaurant noses out of joint: Workplace scents and odors.

A group in Canada is already pushing for a ban on perfumes, air fresheners and other scents in restaurants and other public places, with some success. Asserting that the smells could trigger asthmatic attacks, advocates convinced the health committee of Ottawa’s civic council to vote yesterday on a prohibition. The panel balked at an outright ban, but did approve an initiative that would require municipal facilities to adopt a no-scent policy. The proposal, which now moves to the full council, also calls for the city to mount a publicity campaign that discourages people from using perfumes, colognes or other scents in public.

Opponents have said the awareness program could cost $100,000, to address a possible occurrence among the 2% or so of the population that is allergic or sensitive to the chemicals used to create fragrances or scents.

If this sounds like a quarterback-sneak of a victory by a group of whackos, keep in mind that Canada has lately been an early adopter of concerns that have since emerged as major issues for American restaurateurs. Food allergies, for instance, were a top-of-mind issue to the north back in the 1980s and ‘90s. And trans fats are far more pointed of a concern there, and have been for at least the last year.

This is a matter that could be coming south. And, from your standpoint, it could really stink.

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