Why are cooking utensils made of metal

Involuntary seasoning from cooking utensils

Beware, but no hysteria with food contact materials.

All objects that we eat from and with emit particles of material into food. The risk to our health depends on the amount and toxicity of these involuntary "spices" that get into our food during preparation. There is no place for hysteria over poisonous areas in the kitchen, but caution is advised.

Whether wooden spoons, spatulas, scrapers, chopping boards, bowls, pans, blenders or coffee machines: plastics have long since conquered the kitchen and, as food contact materials, undoubtedly represent a potential chemical hazard. Even traditional metal products are not harmless.


For example, people with kidney disorders should avoid an extra dose of aluminum, as can be found in roast beef kept fresh in aluminum foil. Aluminum-containing pots or bowls should never be used for applesauce, rhubarb or salted herring. Of course, aluminum was scientifically acquitted some time ago of the suspicion of being a trigger for Alzheimer's disease. The consumption of fruit juice from lead-releasing ceramic dishes has already led to vomiting and intestinal colic in some people. Ceramic vessels containing cadmium can release an amount of this heavy metal that exceeds the EU limit, which remains stored in the kidneys and lungs for up to 20 years and can cause health damage when added up. Only the old iron pan is credited for preventing the iron deficiency common at the time among lumberjacks and farmers.


The plastic, which has been ubiquitous in the kitchen for decades, offers an even broader range of hazards. Dipl.-Ing. Erhardt Bradel, an expert at the Agency for Health and Food Safety of the Ministry of Health (AGES), considers aromatic amines to be particularly questionable: “These are substances that are suspicious of cancer. They must not exceed a value of 20 micrograms per liter of food simulant. This is tested by bringing the substance into contact with water, acetic acid or a test food under certain time-temperature conditions. ”The Basel cantonal laboratory recently found five samples in 28 of the cooking utensils examined - ladles, spatulas, whiskers - some of them one Multiples of what is allowed. The goods were immediately confiscated at the supplier's place of business. Bradel: “The investigation centers are networked across Europe. In the past year alone, there were more than 100 warnings across the EU about dangerous consumer goods from China, around 30 of which were kitchen items. While European manufacturers are apparently increasingly complying with the standards, cheap imports from the Far East are doing very badly. In many cases they don't even have guidelines and most of the time Chinese manufacturers don't know our regulations. "

All clear for wood

There should be no illusion that ingredients migrate from every kitchen item, that is, "emigrate". Bradel: “There are no completely non-reactive substances. Compared to plastic, however, enamel and glass are more harmless. "As far as cutting boards are concerned, Bradel not only wins the good old wood product aesthetic sympathy, but also locates certain advantages over the plastic alternative:" Wood is said to be not sufficiently hygienic and fungi can possibly settle in the cutting grooves. However, wood contains disinfecting tannins that the plastic board does not have. "

Convenient Teflon

The thermoplastic high-performance plastic polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), better known under the brand name Teflon, has largely lost its horror. Bradel: “In the past, compounds containing chromium were used between the base and the plastic. Today, in the second and third generation of products, the metal is sandblasted to such an extent that the Teflon adheres to the tiny bumps through mechanical forces and no chemical compounds are required. Teflon can be used safely up to 250 ° C. If you forget the pan on the stove and it gets hotter, the steak is burned and inedible anyway. "

Prof. Dr. Michael R. Buchmeiser, appointed Deputy Director of the Leibniz Institute for Surface Modification from the University of Innsbruck to the University of Leipzig in 2004, shows further facets of the topic: “What objects made of quality plastic, such as polypropylene, release into food is certainly harmless . However, almost every plastic has certain fillers, additives such as UV stabilizers and dyes added to it to increase its durability or aesthetics. For example, if the coffee machine is black, it is made of material colored with soot. That is mostly harmless. The same cannot easily be said of some other colored or white dyes. ”Especially kitchen appliances made of plastic such as egg boilers or coffee machines often have to be added flame retardants and plasticizers for safety reasons. Buchmeiser: “There are almost 10,000 different additives and many of them certainly show relevant migration behavior. By wiping and cleaning, these substances diffuse from the inside in, which incidentally leads to embrittlement of the object after years. Some of these compounds are said to have hormone-like behavior, which can lead to feminization. From the so-called PET bottles, a certain amount of material can also dissolve into the drinks they contain. "

Drinking glasses

Incidentally, Buchmeiser sees another reason to proceed carefully when selecting drinking vessels: dishwashers are often operated with detergents containing chlorine, some of which even attack glass. It cannot be ruled out that detergent residues could get into the body. However, the quantities are likely to be negligible. As for Buchmeiser in general: “With all caution and skepticism, hysteria is completely inappropriate in this area. You have to leave the church in the village. "

Bernd Stracke


“Even before the relevant EU directives were issued, we had our own strict regulations in Austria, but unfortunately there has not yet been full harmonization. The Europe-wide warning system for imports that are hazardous to health works, however. Serious importers of Far Eastern products should, for the sake of the consumer, ensure with expert reports that the goods conform to the intended use. "

Dipl.-Ing. Erhardt Bradel

Expert in the Agency for Health and Food Safety of the Ministry of Health (AGES), Vienna, [email protected]


Information about plastic

Plastic is an organic macromolecular compound that is obtained through polymerization, polycondensation, polyaddition or other comparable processes from molecules with a low molecular weight or through chemical modification of natural macromolecules. Natural or synthetic rubber, paper, cardboard and paraffin wax are not considered plastics.

Consumer info

To protect consumers, consumer goods are subject to strict guidelines and controls. There are not always legal regulations at national and European level. In such cases, recommendations from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) can be used as a guide.
The BfR offers its plastics recommendations free of charge on the Internet at www.bfr.bund.de

‌ Last updated on November 13, 2020