Watch out for kitchenware that could chemically contaminate your food

Don't take chances with your kitchenware; know what your using is safe for your family.

Photo of crystal glasses. | Photo by Jeannie Nichols
Photo of crystal glasses. | Photo by Jeannie Nichols

It makes sense to us that our food would be contaminated if it had chemicals in it, but did you know that our food can be contaminated by certain types of kitchenware and equipment?

Having soaps and other cleaners, polishes and pesticides in our food would certainly be a chemical contamination of our food. As well as these kinds of chemicals there are certain types of kitchen pots, pans, dishes, equipment and glassware that can also chemically contaminate our food. These would include pewter (which may have some copper, silver or lead in it), copper, zinc, galvanized items and some types of painted pottery, all of which are not food grade and should not be used with food. This is especially true when high acid foods, such as orange juice, come in contact with these materials.

It is important to know that a copper bottom pan, where the copper is on the outside of the pan, is perfectly safe. The food will not be touching the copper. When food touches lead, zinc or copper, these chemicals can seep into the food and cause a chemical poisoning in the body.

Crystal actually refers to lead glass. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that food or liquid should not be stored in lead crystal glassware due to the possibility of lead contamination. The FDA also recommends that lead crystal not be used every day and that occasional use is all right. It is known that pregnant women and those of child-bearing age as well as babies and children should not use crystal ware at all. Lead can damage the nervous system, the kidneys and bone marrow.

In the past, lead crystal was most commonly used when producing fancy drinking glasses, wine glasses and other special glassware. Because of the health risks presented by lead, it is difficult to find new lead crystal fancy glasses, wine glasses or alcohol decanters. You can find lead-free crystal, which has nearly all the same qualities as lead crystal.

Symptoms of chemical contamination vary depending on the chemical in the food and of course the amount of the chemical. Most illnesses occur within minutes. Vomiting and diarrhea are typical. If you suspect a chemical contamination get emergency help immediately.

Michigan State University Extension offers these tips to prevent chemical contamination of food:

  • Never store chemicals of any kind near food
  • Always keep chemicals in their original containers
  • Never spray cleaners near food
  • Make sure that food does not come in direct contact with kitchenware that is made of copper, lead, zinc or is galvanized
  • Do not store food or drink in lead crystal glassware and containers
  • Pottery made in other countries may not be safe for use with food
  • Pottery made in the United States today must meet guidelines for lead and should be safe to use
  • Pottery should have a label such as – “Safe for food use”
  • If you aren’t sure whether your kitchenware has copper, lead or zinc do not use it for food

Keep your family safe by storing and using chemicals carefully and only using kitchenware that you know is safe for food.

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