Question: Could you recommend a safe colander?
Answer: Many of my readers find me by following the Facebook page for my documentary film. While the film is not primarily about lead in consumer goods it does touch on that subject – so on that page I post pictures of items I have tested with an XRF (read more here) along with the readings that I found for toxic heavy metals were in those items.
One item I have tested and shared recently is a common vintage household colander (pictured here). This vintage colander is probably similar to what your mother (or grandmother or great-grandmother – depending on how old you are!) may have had in their kitchen. The main problem with a lot of vintage cookware items is that they are obviously chalking, pitted or deteriorating in some way (from decades of heavy usage) and if they contain heavy metals (even traces of heavy metals) that could potentially get in to your food while cooking, that is a great concern.
This particular colander tested positive with an XRF for 26 parts per million (ppm) lead (very low and considered safe by all current standards for modern, newly manufactured cookware) and it also tested positive for 221 ppm cadmium.
While I am a lead expert and not a cadmium expert, I do know that cadmium is a toxic metal that has been shown to cause cancer even in trace amounts.
I will not go so far as to tell you that your particular vintage colander is going to poison you. To my knowledge there is no evidence to support this – specifically because no studies have been done on the impact of toxicant-containing vintage dishware on their users (who would fund such a study? Not the antique industry that’s for sure!). However I will state that from a philosophical and practical perspective neither lead nor cadmium belong in our cookware, in our kitchen or on our dining table – even in trace amounts.
As a result (especially given the age of this piece and the texture and pitting of the older bare metal) I would highly recommend replacing a vintage piece like this and not using it for cooking at all.
On the upside… new high quality stainless steel colanders as a rule test negative (or non-detect) for the following toxic metals: lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. These new stainless pieces will last you a lifetime and are a relatively cheap “upgrade” to your kitchen. (And you won’t feel guilty about passing it along to your children or grandchildren when the time comes!) I bought mine (pictured here) about 14 years ago and it is still in like-new condition even though I use it pretty much every single day – and often several times a day. [While some people may have chromium sensitivities (and therefore choose not to use stainless steel) for me new high-quality stainless kitchenware is among the best and least toxic choices for my family.]
Here are some good options to take a look at if you are in the market for a new stainless colander for your kitchen! [Prices may have changed since I originally created this post.]
- This is similar to the one we have and is only $8.69
- Or you can get a set with four different sizes…(fun if kids are cooking with you!) $22.80
- For “Psych” fans… here’s one with a pineapple pattern for only $15.99!
- We also have one like this for rice (also just $16.95)
- This is one of my favorite kitchen tools [for rice and veggies and also washing toys – like legos over the sink – lol!] ($15.96)
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There are a lot of great/ lead-safe options out there.
Things to avoid: Please get rid of/ stop using any plastic or aluminum strainers or colanders in your kitchen, especially if you regularly use them with hot or acidic foods. Also avoid colanders with any kind of coating, especially colored painted or enamel coatings or markings. Colors often are the source of heavy metals in our kitchenware and they colored coatings are the first part of the cookware to wear. While the coatings may test as “safe” by today’s standards when the item is manufactured there is no guarantee that they will remain safe once they start to wear (or after years of repeated use and washing.) Read more about that here. If you want bright and festive colors in your kitchen, make sure your food is bright and festive (fresh veggies and fruits) and maybe add a bouquet of flowers every now and then. Colorful cookware is not worth the risk.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Unexpected Lead Expert
Mother of Four Boys