A spokeswoman for the Cornish Fire Brigade told FoodManufacture.co.uk that about 40 people were evacuated from the firm’s vegetable packaging area after complaining of feeling unwell at about noon.
One fire engine, accompanied by a hazardous materials officer and several ambulances attended the scene. “The fire fighters, who were wearing breathing apparatus, discovered higher than acceptable levels of carbon monoxide in the building,” said the spokeswoman.
Admitted to hospital
Two West Country Ambulance personnel were also admitted to hospital.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Cornwall Hospital told FoodManufacture.co.uk that 17 people were admitted to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. All were later discharged later on the same day, she added.
There are suggestions that the poisoning might be linked to a liquid-petroleum-gas fuelled forklift truck at the packing plant. The firm’s md, David Simmons told BBC News that tests were being carried out on the truck but the cause of the incident was not yet known.
Riviera Produce prepares and packs cauliflowers and cabbages for supermarkets throughout the UK.
Meanwhile, more than 50 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning each year in the UK and 200 people are seriously injured, according to the National Health Service webite www.nhs.uk.
Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and confusion.
“Carbon monoxide is hard to detect because it has no smell, taste or colour. This also means that it is easy to inhale without realising,” warned the NHS website.
Those with mild symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning usually make a full recovery.
But between 10 and 50% of people with serious carbon monoxide poisoning can have long-term problems, including heart damage.