Tagines & Lead

goldgirlJuly 19, 2014

I picked up an Italian-made tagine (De Silva brand) at Home Goods on clearance for $14. It's glazed inside and out. I thought glazing meant it was for serving only, but the directions indicate that it's to be used for cooking on the stove, in the microwave, it.

I understand that there are lead issues with some tagines and I did found a few old threads about this brand of cookware. But it's hard to tell if it's really a problem, or at least was a problem then. Cookware from this company is apparently readily available at similar discount stores. I could pick up a lead test kit, but it's probably more expensive than the tagine itself!

I'm not generally alarmist, but should I simply return it? I don't need a tagine, but I thought it might be fun to use, and this one is a great size for two people.



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Your best bet for peace of mind is to e-mail them and ask: desilva@desilvaceramiche.it

That said, in general European health and safety standards are more rigorous than ours, so I'd guess that it's fine. What color is it? If the part the food will be touching (the outside doesn't really matter) is a really bright red, orange or yellow, or a shimmery bright blue, it's more likely to have heavy metals in the glaze, but there are synthetic colors that are too close to make it a sure bet. The terracotta color glaze that is often found in tagines shouldn't need heavy metals to create, though, again, no guarantees.

Just ask them to be sure. :)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 5:05PM
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Pillog - In one of the old threads (2010), someone contacted the company, which stated that their cookware is safe and tested daily. I'm just not sure whether to believe them, as there are reports (albeit anecdotal) from people having items from this company tested and finding lead over the EPA limit.

I'd never even thought about lead in cookware before this.

Here is a link that might be useful: Thread on lead

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 5:59PM
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I found this old thread on Chowhound (2012-13) where there are a couple of messages from the maker. They don't actually deny using lead, but do assert that they meet FDA requirements.

An interesting couple of posts near the end also say that lead in cookware glazes has been banned in Italy for a long time, and also says that the pot should be given an acid bath (with instructions) before using. The explanation for why sounds a little off to me, but I might just not understand what he was saying correctly.

LeCreuset, as far as I know, still use cadmium in their hot colors on the outside of the pots, but have always used ivory/sand or textured black inside, which aren't supposed to have any heavy metals.

It may be that de Silva has heavy metals on site for some decorative glazes, and that's why they only claim to be within acceptable limits. That is, they make the cookware without it, but there might be some tolerable contamination from the shared facility. This is a guess.

Sue, since you're concerned, you could just take it back and get one you trust better another day. The bargain may not be worth the worry.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:03PM
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Sue, that's a gorgeous tagine, although I can't conjecture on whether or not it's safe.

I'd say it's probably OK, since the company has been addressing the issue for the past couple of years apparently, since others contacted them in 2010. If you're uncomfortable, though, I'd take it back. It's a small enough purchase that it's just not worth worrying over.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 12:29AM
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Surely if it has been sold for cooking, then it's safe for cooking. Here, I've NEVER heard of any tagine cooking pot posing a threat to your health. Also, how often do you eat a tagine? I really wouldn't worry about it.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 2:35AM
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You may want to try calling an environmental lab that tests for lead based paint and get it tested. They'll need to use an XRF (x-ray fluorescence) to test it. The test is non-destructive and only takes a couple of seconds. They may charge you as much as $25 for the test. You could try calling your local Dept of Health and see if they'll do it or can refer you to somebody that does. I know the standard for lead based paint is 1.0 mg/cm2 but for glazes, I think its lower, 0.4 mg/cm2. At 0.4 or higher, its considered lead containing. Even so, you could still use it so long as the glaze hasn't been compromised, just don't put acidic foods in it.

With the chemical kits you can get at hardware / big box stores, you will need to score the glaze to get an accurate test, thus damaging the glaze. Even with that, its not uncommon to get test kits that are duds.

Too much info? I'm an environmental consultant that deals primarily with lead based paint.

Hope this helps. That's my company below. Not a shameless plug, just so you know I'm not full of hooey!

Here is a link that might be useful: Lead Safe LLC

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 7:56AM
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'Surely if it has been sold for cooking, then it's safe for cooking.'

Well, I wouldn't think that is true at all. It seems like tons of junk comes in from China, and plenty of other places too. I admit that it has been many years since some lovely orange glazes were loaded with uranium, but unless I am confusing issues, some of that was used in some Fiesta Ware. My nuclear chemistry professor had a nice cup that would set the geiger counter screaming.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:15AM
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Thanks everyone. Where else but the CF would there happen to be a lead paint expert ;)

Since the thing only cost $14, I guess I'll just return it. Not worth having it tested, although I certainly am curious given the controversy in the old threads. One person said she'd tested a piece from this company that she bought at TJ Maxx (not a tagine, from what I recall) and it scored over the EPA threshold. I have a feeling the internet discussions is why this was on clearance!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 3:50PM
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Surely you have trading standards for authorising products.Here, we can trust a product. If it's sold for cooking purposes, then you can cook in it!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 2:16AM
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