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How Safe Is Your Cutlery?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Did you know that using low quality cutlery can be harmful? Anindra Siqueira looks at what the risks are and tells you how to pick good quality cutlery

You’re probably aware that non-stick cookware isn’t safe for your health, but did you know that using cutlery that is of good quality is as important as washing your vegetables and fruits thoroughly? Most of us don’t bother about the quality of the spoons and forks that we use. But, they can have an impact on how hygienic your meals are (read our box for more about this). We spoke to celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who recently launched his own brand of cutlery (among other things such as table and kitchen linen), to find out what you should consider when buying cutlery.

He tells us that people are usually driven more by the aesthetics of cutlery rather than the grade quality of the stainless steel that is used for its manufacture. While buying cutlery is easy — you can get varied styles from your local supermarket — simply washing it doesn’t make it safe. You should be aware that some materials used in these products can be toxic. Now, there is an old saying that says that the difference between medicine and poison is in the dose, and while that holds true in general, certain metals and minerals are best avoided in your cutlery.

So, how can all this affect the food that you eat? There isn’t much hard science to prove this, although a recent study pointed out that the type of cutlery you use plays a role in your perception of taste. However, Sanjeev tells us that the most crucial thing to remember about cutlery is that it should be made from food grade materials.

Food for thought
While we don’t consider metals as something that could easily dissolve in our food and water, the fact is that they do — but to such a small extent that it might not even be a few molecules in a glass of water.

Think of it like this: If you put a little sugar in a glass of water and stir it, the sugar will dissolve. Keep adding and mixing the sugar in it and you will reach a point beyond which, no more sugar dissolves. The water has reached its carrying capacity and is saturated. The same thing happens for metals; the only difference is that after a very, very small amount — possibly a few molecules (as opposed to millions of molecules in the sugar, maybe even more!) — the water becomes saturated with the metal.

Need for quality cutlery
The fact is that several chemical elements are used in the manufacture of spoons and other cutlery. They can be made from stainless steel or from alloys of nickel and copper, and there can even be a tiny proportion of other metals and compounds included such as manganese, magnesium, sulphur, silicon and copper sulphate.

If your cutlery is made from poor-quality materials, it could degrade quickly and leach into your food; and although this is on a small scale, it’s not desirable and could have potentially harmful side-effects. Also, there are several factors that contribute to degradation, some of which include heat and exposure to certain elements. So, never keep cutlery too close to your stove, always clean it well and put it away to dry immediately after use.

Sanjeev tells us, “Cutlery is majorly an unorganised sector and there are very few national brands operating in this segment. So, there is a need for quality food grade cutlery products, which offer customers a wider choice.”

When Buying

  • Food grade materials: When you’re buying cutlery, you should check if it is made from food grade materials. Sanjeev tells us that his range is made from 18/10 grade stainless steel, which is food grade and so, is safe to use. The figures 18/10 tells us about the proportions of the metals used — 18% chromium and 10% nickel.
  • Well-plated: Besides checking the base material, Sanjeev explains, “Premium quality cutlery may come with silver or gold plating over the base material, which should be made with 18/10 food grade steel. Here, you can check the quality of the plating. The thickness of the pated layer can range between one to 15 microns. The more microns it contains, the better quality the cutlery is.”
  • Good finishing: He also says that the cutlery you buy shouldn’t have any rough edges. Its sparkle and shine should give you an idea of how well it has been polished.
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