SAFbaby.com has been on a quest to find a safe, non-toxic, durable and unbreakable dish set for children!
But first, find out why we don’t recommend plastic & melamine dish sets:
Although there are finally safer plastic alternatives on the market (BPA-free, Phthalate and PVC-free), we’re not hooked. Plastic is not very durable, scratches easily and some of plastic alternatives still contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. We’re just not comfortable feeding hot food from a plastic plate.
When we learned what’s in melamine dishware, we lost our appetite!
What is Melamine?
“Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant.” *
OK, wait right there! Already we are asking, formaldehyde is a dangerous carcinogenic toxin, so why in the world are we feeding our children on it?”
Other Uses For Melamine
Then once you learn where else melamine is used, it gets our heads shaking in disbelief a little bit more. Check this out. Which of these items just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest:
- floor tiles,
- fire retardant fabrics, and
- commercial filters.
Hmm, we have to say KITCHENWARE! And although melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure, it still does not sit well with us to feed our loved ones hot and acidic foods from this stuff. Even if leaching is minimal, the potential IS there, and our babies and children are just way to vulnerable to these harmful toxins. Especially when there are SAFER ALTERNATIVES available.
Oh, and in case you were curious of what else in in melamine, it is urea.
“Urea, also called carbamide, is an organic chemical compound which essentially is the waste produced when the body metabolizes protein. It is a compound not only produced by humans but also by many other mammals, as well as amphibians and some fish. Urea was the first natural compound to be synthesized artificially using inorganic compounds–a scientific breakthrough.” **Um, Gross!
A Safe Set of Children’s Dishes
I mean honestly, when you spend precious time making your own baby’s food, it sort of defeats the purpose to place something so healthy and good for you on dishes and in bowls made from plastic or formaldehyde!
We like this set from Life Without Plastic. It is made in Thailand of 18-8, 304 food-grade stainless steel. And, it’s dishwasher safe!
Stainless steel is very durable, so you can use one or two sets for years to come.
We love this set to bring with us on trips. Lots of fast food restaurants (even the healthy ones) serve food on unsafe plastic dishes (and drinks in cups). We ask to have the food served on our stainless steel dishware.
As you will find out in our Q and A below, not all stainless steel is created equal. So please make sure you only buy THE SAFEST food-grade stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10, type 304).
A Deeper Look at Stainless Steel Dishware
We still had some questions about Stainless Steel Dishware, so we had a Q and A with the peeps from Sanctus Mundo. Great info here that we are happy to share:
There is some controversy about the safety of stainless steel and that it can leach into food, especially when you cut food with a stainless steel knife on a plate (you can see the scratches).
Regarding the release of elements from stainless steel, it may occur in trace amounts with any standard food/medical-grade stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10, type 304). There are three key possibilities for release from stainless steel: iron, chromium and nickel. Iron is the base material from which steel is made. The nickel and chromium are what make stainless steel stainless, corrosion-resistant and durable. The ’18’ refers to the percentage of chromium in the stainless steel, and the ‘8’ or ’10’ the percentage of nickel.
Our bodies need iron to produce red blood cells. While large amounts can be poisonous, in North America, the chances are much greater that we lack iron. In general, iron cookware and dishes provide less than 20% of the total daily iron intake, which is well within safe levels.
As with chromium, small doses of chromium are also positive for human health. The safe intake range is around 50 to 200 micrograms per day and one meal prepared with stainless steel products might release around 45 micrograms of chromium, which is well within safe levels. Even eating with stainless steel dishes several times a day is fine, as less chromium is released from just eating off the dishes compared with cooking in them using heat.
Nickel is not toxic in small amounts, but it can provoke a reaction in people allergic to nickel. An allergic reaction may consist of a metallic taste in the mouth or a skin rash on the hands (eczema) or elsewhere on the body. Small amounts of nickel can be transferred from stainless steel containers or cookware to foods – especially when the food in question is acidic (e.g., tomatoes, rhubarb). However, the amounts of nickel that may be released from non-corrosive stainless steel products (which all our stainless steel products are) are generally smaller than the amounts one would ingest by eating certain food items such as beef, chocolate, soya beans, oatmeal, nuts & almonds, and fresh & dried legumes, all of which have a relatively high nickel content. So if someone suspects s/he may have an allergy to nickel, we always suggest avoiding all stainless steel completely.
For detailed scientific information on nickel, see this comprehensive Environment Canada/Health Canada Assessment Report of nickel and its compounds. If you take a look at pages 22 and 24 of this document, it will give you an idea of the amounts of nickel released from different foods, and from stainless steel (last sentence in second paragraph on p. 24). As well, here is a Fact Sheet from the US Department of Health and Human Services that provides a detailed toxicological profile of nickel. The upshot is that using corrosion-resistant stainless steel will not add a significant amount of nickel to your diet (the average person ingests about 150-200 micrograms of nickel daily) – you’ll get much more from nickel-rich foods. However, as mentioned above, if you suspect you are sensitive to nickel, the best route would be to avoid any contact with nickel, including via stainless steel products.
So regarding your question about the deterioration of stainless steel, yes, there will be minute amounts of elements of the stainless steel being released as it goes through normal wear and tear, and the above substances are what is coming out. We think, on balance, that this is considerably safer than the endocrine disruptors coming out of various plastics.
OK, we will take small amounts of nickle, iron and chromium over formaldehyde and urea any day!
You say: “…less chromium is released from just eating off the dishes compared with cooking in them using heat.” Does that mean if I cook all the food in stainless steel (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and my daughter eats the food out of stainless steel dishes, she could be getting toxic levels of lead, chromium and nickel? Also, I don’t quite understand what these numbers mean: “stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10, type 304)”.
First off, if you cook all the food for your meals in stainless steel (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and your daughter eats the food out of stainless steel dishes – NO, she should not be getting anywhere even close to toxic levels of chromium, lead or nickel — as long as the stainless steel product is made of high quality stainless steel and is from a solid manufacturer. But lets take it step by step.
The point with chromium is that it should not be dangerous at the levels you will get from stainless steel, be it by eating off dishes or cooking in them – as long as the stainless steel is of high quality (you will notice I said, ”one meal prepared with stainless steel products might release around 45 micrograms of chromium, which is well within safe levels”). I say ‘might’ because I cannot respond to you with a black or white answer, which would assume all stainless steels are the same. There are literally hundreds of grades of stainless steel. But if the stainless steel is of high quality it will be stable and should not be releasing anything, or if at all, very minute amounts.
In my message below I tried to be clear in explaining that nickel becomes a concern if you suspect you may have an allergy to it, and I have read that this may be the case for about 10% of the population. In such situations, we suggest not using stainless steel at all.
As for lead, there should not be any lead in stainless steel itself – provided it is high quality stainless steel (and we know from experience that the only way to be sure of the quality is to test it and/or to know the manufacturer). Where the lead comes into the picture is in the solder used to connect pieces of stainless steel to make the final product – thus if the final product is made from a single seamless piece of stainless steel, there should not be any lead. And again, the only way to know if there is lead in a final product is to test it.
Please be very careful about lumping parts of this information together and drawing broad conclusions. It just doesn’t work that way, which is also why one has to be extremely careful in interpreting test data. You have to put it in perspective and understand that unless a stainless steel product is leaching significant amounts of lead or nickel (in which case it is a very low quality product), it is going to be vastly safer than the food grade plastics on the market, most of which are clearly leaching chemicals such as endocrine disruptors. It is a balance. And it is a personal decision.
So all of this points to the quality of the stainless steel. The 304 refers to the grade of the stainless steel. If you would like a quick broad overview of stainless steel, including the different grades, I would suggest you take a look at the Wikipedia entry for it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel
As I mentioned below, ‘the ’18’ refers to the percentage of chromium in the stainless steel, and the ‘8’ or ’10’ the percentage of nickel.’ Both 18/8 and 18/10 stainless steels of grade 304 are high quality, food grade stainless steels. If you look around, you will see that a lot of cheaper stainless steel products are of the 200 or 400 grade (e.g., 202 or 430). This applies to much of the stuff you will find in, for example, the Dollar Store.
So to answer your final question, we definitely recommend stainless steel as an option for cooking – unless you suspect you have an allergy to nickel (and the only way to know this for sure is to have an allergy test done). In such cases, glass (e.g. Pyrex cookware) may be an option. As for cast iron, it releases a heck of a lot more iron than stainless steel – BUT this is not necessarily a bad thing because as I explained the body needs a fair amount of iron on a daily basis.
What is clear in this world, where most consumer products coming from abroad are not tested or checked to any significant degree before going on the market, is that quality varies widely, and broad conclusions are dangerous and usually wrong.
Thank you Jay from Sanctus Mundo for answering all our questions in detail!