Fire watch officer Dean Thornton told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the pallet of noodles which self-combusted in a food factory last month was not a freak one-off event.
Thornton warned the incident at an ethnic food factory in Leicester could have developed into a life-threatening blaze if smoke alarms had not gone off, allowing fire fighters to tackle the fire before it escalated.
The incident happened at 3am on Monday August 20 when a pallet of noodles began smouldering at Cofresh’s 24,386m2 factory at Lewisher Road, Humberstone, Leicester. The building was deserted but smoke alarms were triggered, which automatically sent a call through to Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire-fighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building and found that smoke was pouring from a pallet of noodles in the loading bay. A forklift truck was then used to move the pallet outside.
The fire crew used a main jet to damp down the smouldering pallet. As no damage had been caused to the factory, production was not disrupted.
Thornton, who was in charge of the fire brigade team, said the incident was caused by an 800kg pallet of noodles that were packed in about 40 plastic bags when they were still hot. They arrived at Cofresh on Friday August 17 and were rejected. But the pallet was left inside the factory to await collection on the Monday.
Over the weekend the noodles began to heat − melting the plastic surrounding them. The plastic acted as an accelerator causing the noodles to combust but without any flame, filling the 20m x 30m warehouse with smoke.
“With the amount of plastic covering them, if they had got enough oxygen, the whole pallet could have gone up,” said Thornton. “It could have spread to other combustible materials in the warehouse. The detector had gone off once the smoke had reached it, and fortunately we managed to get there in time and intervene before flaming combustion had occurred."
How many food types might be at risk from similar combustion was unsure, he said. “It was possibly to do with how they process the noodles in Bombay mix. They extrude the oil from them to make hard noodles so it might certainly apply to any Asian products using this process.
“From now on, the manufacturer should not store rejected batches of these noodles, once heated, internally. They should be taken out of the bags straight away to stop it occurring.”
Cofresh is a family run business that has been trading for more than 30 years and produces more than 200 ethnic products. It opened the factory in 2006 and its products are stocked by all the major multiples and many wholesalers, convenience stores and Asian grocery stores.
To read how FoodManufacture.co.uk first revealed the curious case of the self-combusting noodles, click here .