|Photo by janineomg|
Did you get or give a slow cooker for Christmas? They seem to be a pretty popular gift. I’ve been toying with getting one for a while. Hours and hours of slow cooking, in a safe and energy efficient way. The primal/paleo crowd seems to love them. So what’s the problem? Sadly, the potential for lead to leach out of your crockpot and into your food.
Crockpot inserts (what you put your food into), are most commonly made of glazed ceramic, which has a reputation for leaching lead. This made big news back in 2004 in an investigative report by Bill Gephardt from KUTV in Salt Lake City. He discovered that when ceramic ware was heated to just 80 degrees, it released nearly 10 times the amount of lead as a plate at room temperature. The FDA limits the amount of lead that is allowed to leach from cookware. But there isn’t a “safe” amount of lead to have in your body.
“Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over a period of months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems.” – The Mayo Clinic
Since that report came out, many people have called the manufacturers, only to get mixed answers. The best that some of the manufacturers are able to do is to say that they are FDA approved.
This sketches me out. And I’m not really keen on any of the alternatives I’ve come across. For example, there are unglazed crockpots, but lead is naturally found in all sorts of ceramic materials, not just in the glaze – same goes for clay. The plastic (often nylon) liners that people used in their crockpots concern me as well – I avoiding heating plastic. There are also some aluminum crockpots out there – aluminum is also not something that you want accumulating in your body, plus many of them have non-stick coatings (Teflon or some variation thereof). And with stainless steel comes the risk of nickel. The thing to remember with crockpots, too, is that even though the crockpot is at a relatively low temperature, your food is in there for many hours.
Some people have gone as far as testing their crockpots for lead. But even if the test comes back negative, I’d question if it was tested at the right temperature, or after enough hours of cooking. Or what if acidic ingredients were used, or the crockpot was new versus old, or there was a tiny unnoticeable crack? If it has the potential to leach lead, then there’s a chance it will do so at some point in the future, even if it didn’t at the one point in time that it was tested.
I don’t really think that any cookware is completely safe. But on the safety spectrum, I tend to trust Pyrex, cast iron, and enameled cast iron. From what I’ve researched, those seem to be safest options out there. It’s too bad I haven’t come across any glass or cast iron crockpots.
For me, it’s just not worth the worry of questioning if my crockpot is leaching lead into my food. If I don’t feel confident that it’s not, I’d rather not use it. Until I find something that I can trust, I’ll just keep using the old fashioned crockpot – i.e. the cast iron Dutch oven.
Are crockpots worth the risk to you?