The leaching of chemicals into food is one of the major concerns of cookware utensils. During the leaching process, some of the components used in the production of the cookware may contaminate the cooked food. Ingesting a metal not only affects the taste of your food but has been linked to potential health risks. The accumulation of metals in body tissues can lead to a variety of health problems.
Although ceramic cookware is often claimed to be a healthy alternative to Teflon, some ceramic utensils contain heavy metals that may harm your health. This means that you need to learn about potential health risks before buying this kind of cookware for your kitchen.
What is Ceramic Cookware made of?
There are two basic types of ceramic cookware:
• 100%ceramic cookware and
• Ceramic coated cookware
Ceramic Coated Cookware
Ceramic-coated cookware has a metal body, while the cooking surface is made of ceramic-based non-stick coating. The base is usually made of aluminum to ensure good heat conduction across the pan.
The manufacturers of ceramic-coated cookware claim that the non-stick coating is free of toxic chemicals that can be found in Teflon cookware. The ceramic layers are supposed to prevent the leaching of the metal into food.
Is Ceramic-Coated Cookware Safe for Food Preparation?
Unlike metal, the materials used in ceramic coating are soft and prone to chipping with continuous use. Generally, ceramic-coated cookware degrades over time. In most cases, the cookware can be used for about 3 to 5 years under normal conditions before showing signs of degradation.
The older models are made with a thin ceramic layer that easily degrades with use. As a result of the use of metallic utensils and abrasive cleaners, the surface may be scratched. The metals then can leach from the base and seep into cooked food.
Nowadays, manufacturers use more layers of ceramic to make their cookware more durable. In the last decade, they have made several improvements to ensure a better quality of the ceramic coating.
How to Stay on the Safe Side
Before and after purchasing ceramic coated cookware, make sure to follow these basic guidelines:
• Never purchase ridiculously cheap cookware. Such cookware pieces probably have a coating of questionable quality that will degrade faster than those of comparable, more expensive items.
• Make sure that you purchase cookware from a reputable company.
• Ask the questions and read the label carefully before making a decision.
• Follow the directions for the proper use and maintenance.
• Discard cookware items that are chipped and have cracks on the interior surface.
100% Ceramic Cookware
This type of ceramic cookware is made by pouring a mixture of clay and water into pre-shaped molds. These molds are then fired in a kiln for a long period to get the hardened surface.
The problem with older types of pure ceramic cookware, especially with cheap brands, was that they easily could get cracked and broken. This problem has been resolved recently by using new production methods.
Some brands, including the XtremaCeramcor and Emile Henry cookware, are crack-resistant and very long-lasting. These brands of pure ceramic cookware are also considered non-reactive and completely free of harmful substances.
Pure ceramic cookware is one of the safest options for cooking and serving foods.
Concerns about the Glaze
The glaze gives a smooth, shiny finish to ceramic cookware to prevent moisture from penetrating the surface. Some of the ingredients used in glaze production include lead and cadmium, which are toxic to human health. These heavy metals can seep into the food that is cooked, stored, or served in glazed utensils. The leaching is more intense at higher temperatures.
Lead can build up in the human body and cause health problems over time. According to some studies, regular use of certain types of glazed ceramic cookware can cause lead poisoning and serious health problems in children.
The following is a summary of the regulations of the United States’ Food and Drug Administration with regards to the lead content in cookware and tableware:
- Any tableware that exceeds the levels stipulated by the FDA should not be sold in the U.S.
- According to Proposition 65 in California, all businesses must give public warnings about potential lead exposures.
- If dishware has been tested and is known to leach lead at a level higher than the stipulations of Proposition 65, a warning must be posted to inform the public about this.
- This warning consists of a yellow triangle and a message placed beside or on the affected cookware when they are displayed for sales purposes.
- The only tableware that is certified safe to use is those that have lead levels below the standards stipulated by decree 65.
Overall, manufacturers in the U.S have to follow the guidelines given by the FDA. Therefore, ceramic cookware made in the USA is considered safe for human use. However, manufacturers in other countries may not be bound by the same rules. Imported ceramic cookware may contain lead at levels that exceed those permitted by the FDA.
How to Reduce the Chances of Exposure to Lead
- Always check for safety certifications before purchasing ceramic cookware that has been glazed.
- Make sure to strictly follow the directions given by the manufacturer on the use and care of such cookware.
- Purchase glazed clay cookware only from a reputable manufacturer. Typically, those manufacturers will state clearly that the product is free of potentially harmful substances.
- Always avoid buying cheap ceramic products. Purchase ceramic cookware that has been certified safe, even if it is more expensive.
- Always ask questions before purchasing. Ask the seller if the product meets the standards set out under Proposition 65.
- Keep in mind that imported ceramic cookware may not be entirely safe for cooking, storing, or serving food. Therefore, avoid using them for those purposes at all costs.
- Be careful about purchasing items with colorfully glazed interior surfaces. Bright colors on the external surface are generally not a problem, but you should avoid putting such pieces in the dishwasher.
- You shouldn’t use hand-crafted, homemade, and antique tableware for food preparation because these dishes could be made before the permissible limit of lead content in cookware was regulated.