Enamelware Safety

Written by joanna swanson
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Enamelware Safety
An enamel pot. (pot image by dinostock from Fotolia.com)

Enamelware is made by fusing a layer of porcelain enamel, a glass-like substance, to a metal like aluminium or steel. Variations of enamelware include agateware and graniteware, referring to the difference in appearance. Enamelware is considered safe to cook with, provided it comes from a country with strict testing standards.

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Identification

Enamelware is often one basic colour, with flecks of white in it. The most common colour is blue, but red and yellow enamelware are also available, among other colours. Agateware is characterised by the curved and different coloured markings on it. Graniteware is made with granite fragments, and is usually an earthy colour such as tan or brown. The finish on enamelware, including agateware and graniteware, is smooth and glossy.

Benefits

Enamelware has many benefits that are useful in cookware. It can be subjected to relatively high heat and can take temperature changes of 93.3 to 148 degrees C without cracking or breaking. The thin coating of enamel that is commonly used can flex with the base metal as it expands and contracts. Enamelware's surface is resistant to abrasion and does not rust or burn. It is also stick-resistant and easy to clean. Since it is non-porous, it is resistant to bacteria as well.

Considerations

The enamel used to coat steel and aluminium cookware is considered safe by the FDA, when it is manufactured properly. Early enamelware coatings had high levels of lead or cadmium, which could leach into the food being cooked or served in the cookware. Enamelware produced in or imported to the United States now does not contain a high enough concentration of lead or cadmium to present a problem. Enamelware from other countries may have higher concentrations of these materials and may be dangerous to use.

Lead

Lead poisoning is somewhat common, because until recently, lead was used in many common household items. If lead is ingested, a certain amount remains in the body and can cause serious health problems. While lead is not used in most enamelware items because of the high firing temperature required to make it, lead is used in the glazes for some enamelware slow-cooking pots, but the level of lead that leaches into the food does not exceed FDA standards, enacted in 1971.

Cadmium

Cadmium is a metal commonly used in industrial applications. It can be toxic and is dangerous if ingested, so it is dangerous if contained in enamelware. In the 1970s, excessive levels of cadmium were found in the pigments used to colour enamelware overseas. This enamelware was banned by the FDA and was no longer imported. The manufacturers of enamelware have discontinued the use of these pigments, so newer enamelware is safe to use.

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