EcoWaste Coalition Urges Food Safety Authorities to Ban Toxic Lead in Kitchen Utensils

Fruit grater and stripper with lead solder (above) and those without (below)

A toxics watchdog has requested the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to look into the need of banning the use of lead in kitchen utensils in line with the country’s effort to strengthen the food safety regulatory system. 

The EcoWaste Coalition’s push for limits on the lead content in food contact materials was triggered by the group’s accidental discovery of coconut and melon stripper with soldered parts that had high levels of lead.

The handy metal stripper is used in shredding young coconut and cantaloupe into strips for the all-time favorite thirst quenchers, especially during the hot summer months.

“Out of plain curiosity, we screened one fruit stripper using our portable X-Ray Fluorescence device and was surprised to see how much lead is on the solder that bonds the windshield with the handle,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“This prompted us to buy additional strippers from kitchenware bargain retailers in Quiapo and have them screened for lead,” he added.

Out of the 10 fruit strippers costing P20 to P80 each, seven were found to contain lead solder in the range of 23% to 32%. The other three had no detectable lead content, indicating the availability of lead-safe fruit strippers.

According to the US FDA Food Code, “solder and flux containing lead in excess of 0.2% may not be used as a food-contact surface.”

“Food-contact surface" means “a surface of equipment or a utensil with which food normally comes into contact or from which food may drain, drip, or splash,” as defined under the US Food Code.

“In line with Republic Act 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013, we urge our health authorities to prohibit lead in food preparation and storage utensils,” Dizon said.

R.A. 10611, whose Implementing Rules and Regulations were adopted only last February 2015, seeks to “protect the public from food-borne and water-borne illnesses and unsanitary, unwholesome, misbranded or adulterated foods.”

“Banning lead in food contact materials such as kitchen tools, cooking pots, glazed ceramic and glassware items, painted coffee mugs and other food processing and storage equipment, will also complement the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, which prohibits the use of lead in the manufacturing of packaging for food and drink and for water pipes,” Dizon added. 

Lead is a toxic metal and one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” according to the World Health Organization.