kenneth law chef sodium nitrite

Chef who worked at major Toronto hotel has been selling sodium nitrite used for suicide

Trigger warning: This article discusses topics of self-harm

Kenneth Law, reported to have worked as a chef in a Toronto hotel, is under investigation by Peel Police for running an online business selling sodium nitrite — a common food additive — to overseas customers looking to end their lives.

His business is alleged to be directly responsible for up to seven deaths, including a 17-year-old in the U.S. and another four adults in the U.K.

Peel Regional Police are investigating the local chef after The Times of London reported Tuesday that the Toronto-area man is running an online business selling lethal substances, including sodium nitrite, that individuals are using to end their lives.

Law has made no attempts to hide his involvement in the mail-order business, confirming to the Globe and Mail that he was selling the potentially lethal substance to international buyers.

"I'm selling a legal product, okay. And what the person does with it? I have no control," Law told the Globe on Tuesday.

Law has maintained that he has not targeted sales of sodium nitrite to people intending to end their lives, instead claiming that he began selling the substance for its commercially-intended use as a food additive, framing it as a pandemic side hustle started when many food-service workers were sidelined.

Commonly used as a preservative in cured meats, sodium nitrite is also increasingly employed by people to end their lives when ingested at higher doses. It does so by increasing methemoglobin in the body, triggering systemic hypoxia, metabolic acidosis, and cyanosis that result in death.

There is nothing inherently illegal about the substance itself, or even selling it, as it is a vital ingredient in the food industry, but there have been calls for stricter restrictions on sodium nitrite as its popularity as a suicide method grows.

However, if an investigation determines that Law — who is steadfast in his stance that he was not targeting buyers looking to end their lives — did, in any way, knowingly counsel or aid a person to die by suicide, it could land the chef up to 14 years behind bars.

If you or someone you know might be going through a difficult time, there are resources available. You can call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566 or Toronto Distress Centres at 416-408-4357.

Lead photo by

Jason Leung

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