Operators worried by reports that wood-fired pizza ovens contributes to climate change should listen to the evidence in part but buy wisely and avoid issues with environmental health inspectors.
That’s the verdict of Preston-based Valoriani UK following the publication of a scientific study by the University of Surrey that ruled such equipment could be an environmental menace and emit dangerous secondary pollutants.
Valoriani UK, which supplies Tuscan pizza ovens, is advising wood-fired cooking and pizza buyers to ensure they buy an oven that comes with DEFRA certification. It insists that asking to see this certification is a must and no purchaser should simply believe a vendor who claims to have it.
The certification demonstrates that emissions will not compromise an eatery or individual’s green credentials, but also enables them to be legally operated in Smoke Control Zones. The proviso to this is that the owner must use approved logs, to be carbon neutral. Typically this means kiln-dried, with a moisture content of under 20%. Burning wet and unseasoned logs, fresh from the garden or farm gate, simply will not do.
Anyone living in a Smoke Control Zone must abide by the legislation covering emissions, but Valoriani claims the reality is that, until this year, Environmental Health Officers had not enforced the law to any great degree. In recent months that appears to have changed, with various incidents of pizza oven shut downs and more stringent enforcement of the law being reported.
If a restaurant’s emissions certification is non-existent, or the inspectors have to test the emissions because the wood-fired oven is not on the DEFRA approved list, the oven can have downtime of around a week, a fine of £1000 and a bill for the official emissions testing that could be as much as £10,000. On-the-spot fines of £1,000 can also be levied to individual owners who break smokeless zone legislation and their oven could be confiscated.
Valoriani agrees that the University of Surrey’s thoughts on the emissions issue could one day become accurate, as it has witnessed the arrival of many me-too pizza oven manufacturers over the last 18 months, many of whom are selling inadequate shells as ‘wood-fired pizza ovens’, which have a very short lifespan and little health and safety protection, let alone emissions certification, it claims.
“Many of these ovens are made from materials that are not fit-for-purpose, with some using metal components within their shell that expand and contract as the oven heats up, leading to disintegration and possible food contamination as particles fall into the food being cooked,” said the company’s owner, Andrew Manciocchi. “Others have little or no insulation, creating the potential for chefs and owners to be badly burnt, if their skin comes into contact with the oven.”
He said that some ovens are also producing excessive levels of carbon monoxide, so better inspection of wood-fired ovens and a more strategic approach to their monitoring is required.
“We welcome the University of Surrey’s report, as it may make wood-fired pizza oven owners think more carefully about their pizza oven purchase decision and realise that the adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ is very true,” he added. “A bona fide wood-fired pizza oven should not be costing just a few hundred pounds, disintegrating or breaking down after one summer’s operation. Neither should it be burning wood like it’s going out of fashion, which is a sign of it compensating for not being fit for purpose.
“We hope Environmental Health Inspectors will take this report on board and start to demand to see an oven’s emissions certification. We would also like to see the HSE step up its activities in relation to wood-fired and other pizza ovens that have no health and safety certification or proper flue systems. It is time for a clamp down on unregulated pizza ovens and time for consumer champions to start helping the consumer understand what to look out for when buying their pizza oven.”