By Liz Todd
19th July 2008
It is the nation’s favourite Chinese dish – adored by millions and a staple feature on the menus of restaurants and takeaways the length and breadth of Britain.
But Peking Duck could now be forced into extinction by an EU ban on the ovens traditionally used to prepare it.
Council inspectors have been busily visiting restaurants that use the ovens and sealing them closed with tape because they do not carry a CE (Conformité Européenne) mark certifying that the equipment meets safety standards on carbon-monoxide emissions laid down by Brussels.
Ten restaurants in London – including some in the famous Chinatown district – have so far been affected and scores more in the capital will be hit in coming weeks.
Other councils around Britain are also being urged to take similar action.
The clampdown comes despite an admission by council officials that there have been no reported health problems linked to the ovens, which are made in China and are also used to cook Cantonese Duck and suckling pig.
The ban has infuriated celebrity chef Ken Hom, who said last night: ‘It’s absurd. What do the Europeans know about making Chinese duck? It’s just as outrageous as people in Hong Kong being told they can’t make fish and chips. I am livid.’
One restaurant where the ovens have been shut down is the £40-a-head Phoenix Palace, in Marylebone, Central London.
Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and his wife Cherie are among its high-profile clientele and staff have also catered for Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman.
Front-of-house-manager Victor Hor said: ‘It’s tied our hands behind our back but there’s nothing we can do about it, except make an apology for a mistake we didn’t make.
‘I had a customer who came in and said he would have his usual roast pig and I said, ‘Sorry,
I can’t do that.” He said, “What am I supposed to eat?”‘
Mr Hor said that his oven was imported from China eight years ago because there were no European manufacturers making them.
The ovens have been shut down by Westminster Council. The crackdown was launched after an official noticed the ovens were not CE marked during a routine inspection of Chinese restaurants in May.
Westminster has now contacted other councils in areas with large Chinese populations to raise the issue.
In 2006, Westminster confiscated burners used on tables at Korean restaurants because they did not meet European safety standards.