I have recently set up my apartment and am looking around for budget cookware to equip my kitchen.
I also understand the rule “you get what you pay for”. But I believe it is my skills as a cook that will bring good food to my table.
I am, however, concerned about the quality and chemicals that may leach out from cookware into my food.
I can only afford things made in China at the moment. I decided to find out if cookware made in China is safe.
Is Cookware Made in China Safe?
If the cookware companies that outsource production to China, oversee the production to make sure quality is not compromised, then you don’t have to worry.
In all likelihood, cookware from good brands (even if the cookware is made in China) is of good quality.
However, since China has a lot of cookware production factories, you are bound to find rotten apples in mass production.
Allow me to elaborate on your query. We need to understand the workings of the manufacturing plants and production companies and the reason why the majority of cookware made in the world comes from China.
We will later delve into specifications of materials used in cookware that can be harmful. Simply bypassing these ingredients is your ticket to safe cookware.
Why is Cookware Made in China?
It is important to understand that the production of cookware is pure business.
The production houses choose the manufacturing plant and factories according to their preference, keeping in mind the Production costs.
Production costs include regulatory compliance costs and labor costs. Regulatory compliance consists of smaller regulations like environmental safety, workplace safety, material sourcing, etc.
The procurement cost of materials is another significant game-changer. For example, if the material is nearby, the procurement cost decreases.
This cost is higher in the United States compared to China. Chinese-based factories get the job done at a lower rate.
Quality control is the main factor that decides cookware safety. If the companies follow strict quality control of each batch that is produced, then the cookware is safe.
Do Companies Operate Their Factories in China?
Most companies merely import products from China. They purchase from Chinese factories and then resale the product.
A lot of resource including Human and Machine needs to be present in factories to verify the quality of each cookware.
After testing the first batch, the production houses do not want to spend money and time on resources. This leads to a good quality downfall.
For high quality, each cookware must pass the quality parameters in each stage and this must be consistent with each batch produced. Only then good quality will be ensured.
Some testing parameters are :
- Ensuring the material doesn’t bend or lose shape on exposure to heat or repeated usage
- The material is clad or polished perfectly without gaps or loopholes
- High-quality materials are used without cheap additives
What Happens When Companies Do Not Operate Their Factories in China?
Lumber Liquidators is a classic example of a company that did not operate its factory in China and ended up selling floorboards that made people sick.
Lumber Liquidators had a tie-up with Chinese partners. The floorboards that were sold leaked excessive formaldehyde into the homes of consumers.
As the air picked up excessive quantities, it increased cancer risk and made people ill.
The American company did not catch the discrepancy until many of the consumers started falling sick.
Another such is the case of Petco food bowls. The stainless steel pet bowl was found contaminated with radioactive metal cobalt 60.
The U.S Department of Homeland security denied 120+ shipments between 2003 and 2008. They all contained contaminated cargo including contaminated cutlery.
Emeril Pro Clad cookware had thinner sidewalls compared to its American counterpart clad cookware. It was also overpriced.
Emeril Pro Clad cookware is now discontinued due to poor quality and high price.
Is the Contamination Deliberate?
Not necessarily. The metal procured at cheap costs from scrap yards becomes a raw material for repurposed metal.
The material used may not be checked at the right points and the outcome of such cookware is an amalgamation of different contaminants.
Unless quality checks are conducted at each manufacturing step, there is always a risk of contamination.
Sometimes the cheap materials are bought on purpose to decrease the production costs.
The outcomes may be cookware leaching out harmful chemicals, radioactive cookware materials, handles breaking off, lids snapping open, shattering and cracking of cookware, rivets exploding, etc.
Some Cookware Brands That Make Cookware Products in China
Some good brands like Le Creuset use accessories from China.
The cast-iron products are made in France. Their stoneware comes from Thailand, and their stainless steel products are from Portugal.
Pioneer Woman cookware is another brand that makes dishes and pots in China. Only their non-stick pans are manufactured in the United States.
Single-layer products of All-Clad such as lids are made in China. Some of its lids are found to be 18/0 steel instead of 18/10.
Some non-stick All-Clad collections like HA1, Essentials, and B1 are made in China
Groupe SEB produces Chinese tri-ply clad since 2014 under the name “T-Fal”. A famous T-Fal cookware set is Tri-ply stainless steel multi-clad cookware set made in China.
Xtrema cookware is another ceramic-coated cookware made in China. China produces 70% of the world’s ceramic cookware.
It is considered quite safe to eat in ceramic cookware made in China. Let me tell you why.
Why is Ceramic Ware Made in China Safe?
Porcelain is also called fine china. It is fired at a very high temperature. The only contaminant in ceramic ware is lead.
Because of the high temperature used during making Porcelain, if there is any lead or any other harmful component, they will get sealed inside.
Once the lead is sealed inside the cookware of surface glaze, it is no longer dangerous.
You need to differentiate ceramic cookware from ceramic pottery. Ceramic pottery is fired at low temperatures.
If it gets chipped it comes porous leaking out any harmful contaminant it might contain.
How to Test For Lead in Ceramic Ware?
You can do this by purchasing muriatic acid at any pool supply store.
Next, turn your cookware upside down and place a little drop of muriatic acid on each color your ceramic might have. Allow the muriatic acid to dry naturally for a day.
Take a bright torchlight and examine the surface where the muriatic acid was applied. If you find any powdery residue, the ceramic has some lead content. Do not use it for serving food.
In case you do not wish to test it yourself, there are professional labs that test for lead content. You just need to search for one near your area and get them to test the cookware for you.
Let us now proceed toward the harmful materials that can be toxic if found inside the cookware
What Are the Toxin Materials Found in Cookware?
Some toxin materials found inside cookware may cause birth defects, cancer, and even harm your reproductive organs causing infertility, etc.
These toxins are added as cheaper alternatives in the manufacturing of cookware, or they may also be byproducts of a chemical reaction.
California Proposition 65 is a list of chemicals that, if found, can cause toxic effects on the human body.
Here are some chemicals from that list that may be found in cookware. Make sure the cookware you purchase is free from the following chemicals :
Lead, Chromium, PFAS, Aluminum, Cadmium, Nanoparticles, and Nickel.
Lead is bioaccumulative, which means it accumulates inside the body. It is very harmful to the human body.
Consuming lead every day can cause Kidney disease, Brain damage, Anemia, weakness, and even Death.
Read here to know more about health issues caused by exposure to lead.
Chromium is a harmful metal used for making stainless steel. Although the amount ingested is very less, it spreads to all tissues, especially the liver, bone, and kidney.
Chromium ingestion is known to cause changes in the reproductive system, causing stillbirths, miscarriages, low birth weight, etc.
These are Teflon non-stick coatings that should be completely avoided in the cookware you choose.
PFOA and PFC are well known for their toxic side effects. They can cause cancers, and harm mammary glands, testicles, liver, and pancreas. Read here to know more about the harmful side effects of PFOA.
Aluminum is often found in most cookware.
It is a neurotoxin and is responsible for neurological disorders. One such example is Dementia. It can also retard growth in children, and cause bone and brain diseases.
Cadmium is mostly used in ceramic cookware for bright colors.
This heavy metal can cause bone demineralization and kidney toxicity.
Ceramic coating leaches out byproducts called Nanoparticles. These are known for causing pre-cancerous lesions and immune system disruption.
The most harmful nanoparticle is asbestos. It is carcinogenic and has caused many deaths.
Nickel is usually added to protect stainless steel from heat damage and rusting.
Nickel is particularly harmful to those having allergies and newborns.
Ingestion of nickel in studies revealed a reduction in newborn weight and increased incidents of newborn deaths.
The American companies that manufacture cookware in the United States have to undergo strict regulatory compliance that ensures consumer safety.
The regulatory compliance standards in China are not like in the US. The production cost and the procurement cost are also low.
Unless quality control is adhered to at each step of manufacturing, safety may be compromised by the addition of cheaper materials for cost-cutting.
I would suggest thorough research of the ‘Made in China’ cookware you wish to purchase.
Steer clear of cookware containing Lead, Nanoparticles, PFAS, chromium, cadmium, Aluminum, and Nickel.
If you do not find a satisfactory result, you can perhaps find a similar product made in America costing more or less the same. You will also be helping the economy of the United States by doing so.
All the best!
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