Richard Corbett is rightly enraged that the Daily Telegraph published an article entitled ‘EU mandarins force Peking duck off the menu‘. Just like all of these myths about the EU trying to do something there’s half a grain of truth in it, and the rest is complete crap.

Essentially ovens imported into the EU from China to make Peking Duck do not conform to an EU directive on the safety of cooking appliances. It’s not even a matter for ‘EU Mandarins’ as the Telegraph suggests – the directive will have been agreed in codecision between the Council (representing the Member State governments) and the European Parliament.

National governments are charged with the implementation of this legislation, so Westminster Council has been closing down premises (11 so far) where the ovens to make Peking Duck have been emitting more Carbon Monoxide than the directive allows.

Now let’s get this clear. If an oven emits excessive Carbon Monoxide it’s no fun for those concerned. Quite frankly we shouldn’t be too happy if those cooking Peking Duck in China are getting poisoned with carbon monoxide, but let’s just focus on Europe for the moment. As we have a single market in Europe, we need common product standards. It’s no good to have different standards for the ovens in Berlin, Bratislava and London, otherwise we would be checking each others’ products at the borders all the time – whether imported from outside the EU or produced within the EU. So it’s completely right that the EU sets Carbon Monoxide emissions standards for ovens.

In short this is not – in any way – the EU trying to stop people cooking Peking Duck. It is the EU trying to set some standards for health and safety for workers using ovens, and that’s a good thing.

Let’s also, finally, switch the thing around. What if it’s European kids that are being harmed by something dangerous from China? Toys for example, maybe plastic ducks? Well, then we’re very happy to have an EU level monitoring system in place to stop out little ones chewing on some plastic that contains toxins. China is responsible for 85% of all toy safety concerns.

But I suppose the journalist writing the article in the Telegraph has never worked in a restaurant in Chinatown in London, but probably fears for the safety of their small child out in the leafy green suburbs somewhere. Double standards? Surely not.

2 Comments

  1. I agree with you that the product standards can act as non-tariff barriers, but I would be surprised if this directive had been designed to stop Peking Duck ovens – after all they are rather specialist (there’s something to do with airing the skin of the duck) and the CO level was probably set due to haggling between Council and EP anyway.

    But the response should be to make a change in the legislation, not to whine that the EU is banning Peking Duck.

  2. Depends rather on what those standards for CO are. It is of course possible that they’re deliberately set so that Chinese ovens will not pass them but that EU manufactured ones will.
    Of course, it has never been true in all the history of trade that product specifications have been used as trade barriers now, has it?
    As, say, the curvature of bananas or cucumbers, the size of kiwi fruit, the forkedness of carrots nor the, well, that list can be continued.

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