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Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department
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Food Safety Program

Kitchen Contaminants


Lead leached from some types of ceramic dinnerware into foods and beverages is often consumers' biggest source of dietary lead, says John Jones, Ph.D., strategic manager for pesticides and chemical contaminants in FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (See "Lead Threat Lessens, But Mugs Pose Problem" in the April 1993 FDA Consumer and "An Unwanted Souvenir: Lead in Ceramic Ware" in the December 1989-January 1990 FDA Consumer.) Here are some tips to reduce your exposure:

Don't store acidic foods, such as fruit juices, in ceramic containers.

Avoid or limit to special occasions the use of antique or collectible housewares for food and beverages.

Follow label directions on ornamental ceramic products labeled "Not for Food Use--May Poison Food" or "For Decorative Purposes Only," and don't use these items for preparing or storing food. Also, don't store beverages in lead crystal containers for extended periods.

Microwave Packaging

High temperature use of some microwave food packaging material may cause packaging components, such as paper, adhesives and polymers, to migrate into food at excessive levels. For that reason, choose only microwave-safe cooking containers. Never use packaging cartons for cooking unless the package directs you to do so. (See "Keeping Up with the Microwave Revolution" in the March 1990 FDA Consumer.)


According to FDA's Jones, there has been speculation linking aluminum to Alzheimer's disease. The link has never been proved, he said, but if consumers are concerned, they should avoid cooking acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, in aluminum pans. For other uses, well-maintained aluminum pans--as well as stainless steel, copper and iron pots and pans--present no apparent hazards.

Insect and Rodent Droppings, and Dirt

Avoid storing food in cabinets that are under the sink or have water, drain and heating pipes passing through them. Food stored here can attract insects and rodents through openings that are difficult to seal adequately.

Wash the tops of cans with soap and water before opening.

Publication No. (FDA) 96-1229

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