Dear Ed ...

Dear Ed

Here is an obscuriousity for your collection. It was on the label attached to my non-stick frypan, but what does it mean?

Do not overheat your utensil to avoid fumes that could be dangerous for small animals with particularly sensitive respiratory system, like birds.

Obscurely yours,
Briony

Hi Briony

As the best legal eagle knows, if you want to bury something, put it in 4 point. Not only is the first sentence obscure, it has neatly concealed what the makers have to tell you but don't want you to know.

The sentence should read:

Do not overheat this frypan. Overheating will cause fumes that could be dangerous for small animals with particularly sensitive respiratory systems, such as birds.

But it does beg the question: Why not take the opposite approach and insist that people always have a bird in the kitchen when using a non-stick frypan? Just as miners took canaries down into mines as early-warning indicators of toxic air, a dead canary in the kitchen would be a clear indicator that it's time to throw the frypan outside and open the window (or, as a fortnightly alternative, stick your head out the window as you cook and pretend you're driving an old car with a fogged-up windscreen).

It does seem that the makers are more concerned about the health of the bird than the health of any humans who might be in the vicinity of the frypan, such as the cook or the mob of people sitting at the kitchen table waiting for a feed. As Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie put it in Slow Death by Rubber Duck (UQP), '… there's some convincing evidence to suggest that non-stick coatings can heat up quickly to levels where numerous toxic gases (some carcinogenic to humans) can be released.'

If you have any little people in the home, I strongly suggest you read Slow Death by Rubber Duck because:
a)    it makes sense
b)    it's not in 4-point legalese
c)    it will make you think about everyday objects such as carpet cleaners and drink bottles and frypans in an entirely new way.

Apologies for the joke-free zone this month. One bit of toxic text can ruin your whole day.

Keep your head out the window,
Ed