Another “Lead-free” product positive for Lead. VitaClay Chef Slow Cooker: 70,400 ppm Lead. Click & read for more info.

Here we have another product that is clearly marketed and sold – and explicitly labeled – as “Lead-free” — yet which, when tested with an XRF instrument, has three separate components that each tested positive for Lead in varying amounts (and, in fact, one of the components was positive for a extremely high level of Lead)!

This is the VitaClay Chef Slow Cooker. It is a 2018 model received and shipped directly from the company in November of 2018. Please scroll down to see the exact full XRF readings for the components of this product that were tested and to read more about the concern.

PREDICTION: Given the high Lead component is not their clay pot insert, I predict that the company’s official response to this blog post might be that they never said in their marketing materials that the ENTIRE PRODUCT was Lead-free — that they only ever claimed that their clay pot insert is Lead-free. In response, I would like to assert that putting “No Lead” in big bold letters on their packaging and other materials (including prominently mentioning in their videos that their product is Lead-free) would easily/reasonably lead the consumer to understand that their whole product as sold is Lead-free — not just the inner clay pot component.

Please note: There is no question that this product does contain Lead — in at least three separate components, INCLUDING the clay pot [although the levels in the clay pot are quite low and not what concerns me the most here].

Also please note: While I would not personally use one of these VitaClay slow cookers in my home (because I am a mother of Lead poisoned children), the level of Lead I found (using XRF technology) in the clay pot is actually not too concerning — it is actually within safe levels by all current standards (European and American).

My primary concern is the public statements of the company and their apparent lack of understanding of what it means for a product to be “Lead Free” – based on the language in their marketing materials (websites, videos, affiliate blogger posts, etc.) and packaging. Specifically, that they could have any component that is 70,000+ ppm Lead and don’t seem to be aware of that is VERY concerning.

So while in the following post I discuss VitaClay’s lack of specificity in the language they use about their product  (in addition to challenging what should be considered safe vs. what is currently considered safe), my concern with this particular product is more for false advertising than it is necessarily for any immediate potential harm that may or may not be caused (now or in the future) to the user of this product (by the Lead content of this product.)


So what exactly do they claim on their website?



Statement Screenshot from VitaClay Website


Dissecting the screenshot from their website (above):

A) To state that the product is “certified as “Lead-free” is misleading, because the whole product has apparently not been tested by the company, and the testing limits of the testing methodology used for the components that were tested are also not the most stringent limits.
B) Lead is not just found in glazes but is present in many ceramic base clays (at the levels that I found in the Zisha clay of the VitaClay pot pictured here on this blog post.)
C) Potential Lead is not “melted away” – that’s some sort of magical thinking that I have never actually heard from any other company, and my testing confirms that the Lead is still there – so obviously not “melted away.”
D) This assertion that they have a “Lead-free ‘certification'” needs to be questioned. I have not seen a “Lead-free certification” from VitaClay nor have I been able to find one on their website. What I did find was a “Certificate of Analysis” for testing done by a lab, with a low threshold of detection (“Detection Limit”) of 0.01 ppm. This detection limit is an indicator that the certificate is for leach testing (even though the testing methodology of “leach testing” is not expressly stated on the certificate, the code “AOAC 973.82” on the Certificate of Analysis is the code for leach testing.) This Certificate of Analysis also states: “Samples tested are Lead, Cadmium and Arsenic free.”  However, again, this is in no way a “Lead-free certification” for the product it is only a Certificate of Analysis for lead leach testing down to a certain limit of detection for the samples tested (the samples tested being the leaching solution extracted for each of the clay pots noted on the certificate.) Here is a link to these results so you can see what I am referring to specifically.*


*As with many companies VitaClay does not appear to understand what this “Certificate of Analysis” means. All this means is that the product component tested passed a leach test for Lead. It does not mean that the entire product itself is “Lead-free.”  A “Certificate of Analysis” for leach testing of  a single component on a very complex multi-component item should not be the sole basis by which a company chooses to claim/advertise their product as “Lead-free”, especially when other components of the product are in fact testing positive for extremely high levels of lead [and it’s not as if these high-Lead areas could in any way be considered “inaccessible” in normal use, or immune to eventual wear].

Below is more information demonstrating that the company does not seem to understand the testing that they had done on their product.


Additional Statement on VitaClay’s Site re: Lead


Vitaclay Feb 28, 2017 Lab Analytical Results

Three points in response to the above graphic:

  1. In the image above, the company states that testing cannot be done to the “level of accuracy” to determine if the pots are Lead-free. This is simply untrue.
  2. The testing they link in the teal link on their site (also linked above and uploaded here on my site) does not demonstrate what they are claiming in the language above.
  3. They cannot claim their pots are 100% Lead-free — because they are not 100% Lead-free.

As for point #1 above: Any legitimate lab can easily determine a Lead level below 100 ppm using XRF testing in consumer goods, as I do — these instruments are designed to accurately test for Lead down to single digit parts per million.

As for point #2 above: They appear to be confusing their testing. The testing they have linked for the clay pot insert is leach testing that has tested down to 10 ppb (0.01 ppm) NOT consumer goods testing for Lead content using “the same standard applied to children’s toys”; they do not appear to have the total Lead content test results (the type of testing applied to children’s toys) – down to “100 ppm or below” – listed or linked anywhere on their site.  [This is the specific type of testing that I have done and listed below in this post.]


Regardless of whether or not the company understands the type of testing they have done, if you are a regular reader here on my blog, you may already be up to speed with my concern over existing FDA leach testing standards, however, if you are new here I encourage you to read this post: Does vintage and new functional pottery and dishware have unsafe levels of lead?

Related: #AskTamara: What do you use to test for Lead?

Given the bare clay / terra cotta-style pot itself does test positive using XRF testing for trace levels of Lead , I actually do have some concern for long-term use, and possible potential leaching over time (irrespective of the fact that it may have passed leach testing at the time of manufacture.) Specifically, I have a concern that the testing limits of the leach testing that was done (down to 10 ppb Lead) is not stringent enough for this particular type of product. For context: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that Lead in school drinking water fountains should not be higher than ONE part per billion Lead [LINK]; I personally think the same standard should apply to the food our children eat — especially with food cooked in appliance intended for daily use cooking household staples like rice. As a result, a reading of “less than 10 ppb” is not sufficiently protective of children’s health and I would prefer to know if it is 1 ppb or 5 ppb or 9 ppb (exactly how far below 10 ppb is it?) and leach testing results with that level of accuracy are possible.


THE BIGGER PROBLEM: FALSE ADVERTISING


Regardless of whether or not the product is leaching any Lead into the food it contains, fundamentally, we have a much bigger problem here:

Companies across many industries are using the language “Lead-free” to sell products that are, in fact, not “Lead-free”. This issue is one of false advertising (whether intentional, or more commonly due to ignorance and/or confusion over the meaning and limits of various testing methodologies and standards.) It is also often an issue of irresponsible manufacturing processes and ignorant marketing teams.

Customers seek out and buy products that are sold as “Lead -free” for a variety of reasons:

  1. They may select a product with this label because they want assurance that the food cooked, served or stored in the product will be Lead-free [throughout the entire life of the product].
  2. They may buy a product because those words signal or represent “quality” and ethical business practices.
  3.  They might buy this product because they are committed to a future in which no Lead is mined, manufactured or refined to create consumer goods (helping to protect the air, water and soil of our planet for future generations.)

Whatever the consumer’s reason(s) for purchasing based on this labeling, the fact that the product is not Lead-free constitutes a deception.

What companies across the board need to understand is that JUST BECAUSE a product DOES NOT LEACH LEAD into the food cooked in it (or consumed from it) at the time of manufacture does not in any way mean the product is LEAD-FREE. This is especially true with items like the product pictured here, which has many components that would each need to be tested in order to earn a truthful “Lead-free” appellation.

No one is policing this really. Sometimes, it seems to be just me and my readers who are looking into the vast majority of manufacturers of consumer goods that may be guilty of false advertising in this manner.

With a mass manufactured product that has been on the market for YEARS (like the VitaClay slow cooker), ignorance of the meaning of the words “Lead-free” cannot be an excuse. In just a short search for this product online I found blog posts dating back to 2013 where the product is advertised as Lead-free, the box in the photos that the blogger used includes images on the packaging stating the item has “No Lead”, and the blogger in question also used the hash tag #LeadFree.

So not only is the company misleading its customers (intentionally or otherwise), it is misleading the bloggers and others it enlists to sell its products, potentially tarnishing the reputations of those bloggers as well. In this way companies like VitaClay are discrediting the women in my sisterhood, and this pisses me off. We cannot stand for this. We need to take action for change. I’m open to suggestions and collaborative initiatives.

Please scroll down and read all of the specific XRF test results on this post (along with the pictures illustrating the components tested that were positive for lead.)

Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Tamara Rubin
#LeadSafeMama


COMPONENT #1
Interior reddish-orange metal of lining of appliance [photos above and below]:
30 second reading
This appears to be an enameled metal of some kind, which I was fairly certain would be high lead based on appearance and materials type (before testing it).

This component of the appliance does not touch the food. HOWEVER I do have concern for the leaded enamel coating being scratched as the interior red clay vessel is inserted and removed with each use. I would love to see what this interior looks like after years of use. [Please share a picture if you have one you have been using for many years.]

Additional test for this component came in within the same range, between 62,600 and 81,100 ppm Lead.

  • Lead (Pb): 70,400 +/- 4,300 ppm
  • Arsenic (As): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Cadmium (Cd): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Mercury (Hg): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Barium (Ba): 35,800 +/- 3,600 ppm
  • Chromium (Cr): 27,200 +/- 3,100 ppm
  • Antimony (Sb): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Selenium (Se): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Tin (Sn): 133 +/- 61 ppm
  • Zinc (Zn): 658 +/- 124 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 4,309 +/- 708 ppm
  • Vanadium (V): 52,100 +/- 5,100 ppm
  • Titanium (Ti): 189,200 +/- 11,000 ppm
  • Cobalt (Co): 805 +/- 298 ppm
  • Magnesium (Mn): 3,655 +/- 1,154 ppm

 

COMPONENT #2 
Flat bottom exterior of  inner terra cotta ceramic lining [photo above]:
60 second test (one minute)

  • Lead (Pb): 57 +/- 14 ppm
  • Arsenic (As): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Cadmium (Cd): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Mercury (Hg): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Barium (Ba): 267 +/- 52 ppm
  • Chromium (Cr): 18,600 +/- 500 ppm
  • Antimony (Sb): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Selenium (Se): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Tin (Sn): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Zinc (Zn): 10,900 +/- 300 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 37,600 +/- 1,100 ppm
  • Bismuth (Bi): 54 +/- 15 ppm
  • Vanadium (V): 150 +/- 59 ppm
  • Titanium (Ti): 3,455 +/- 191 ppm
  • Cobalt (Co): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Magnesium (Mn): Negative / Non-Detect

COMPONENT #3
Bottom interior (food surface) of  inner terra cotta ceramic lining [photo above]:
120 second test (two minutes)

  • Lead (Pb): 71 +/- 10 ppm
  • Arsenic (As): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Cadmium (Cd): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Mercury (Hg): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Barium (Ba): 228 +/- 34 ppm
  • Chromium (Cr): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Antimony (Sb): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Selenium (Se): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Tin (Sn): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Zinc (Zn): 135 +/- 18 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 46,600 +/- 900 ppm
  • Bismuth (Bi): 96 +/- 10 ppm
  • Vanadium (V): 269 +/- 35 ppm
  • Titanium (Ti): 3,144 +/- 115 ppm
  • Cobalt (Co): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Magnesium (Mn): 1,207 +/- 162 ppm

COMPONENT #4
Silver colored ribbed heating element under clay pot [photos above.]
30 second test 

  • Lead (Pb): 321 +/- 26 ppm
  • Arsenic (As): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Cadmium (Cd): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Mercury (Hg): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Barium (Ba): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Chromium (Cr): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Antimony (Sb): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Selenium (Se): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Tin (Sn): 92 +/- 17 ppm
  • Zinc (Zn): 5,676 +/- 212 ppm
  • Copper (Cu): 7,305 +/- 272 ppm
  • Nickel (Ni): 279 +/- 75 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 6,922 +/- 392 ppm
  • Sliver (Ag): 16 +/- 6 ppm
  • Platinum (Pt): 305 +/- 78 ppm
  • Bismuth (Bi): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Vanadium (V): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Titanium (Ti): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Cobalt (Co): Negative / Non-Detect
  • Magnesium (Mn): 2,485 +/- 329 ppm

End of Test Results
Continue scrolling for additional photos of this product.

One Response to Another “Lead-free” product positive for Lead. VitaClay Chef Slow Cooker: 70,400 ppm Lead. Click & read for more info.

  1. Anna December 11, 2018 at 6:05 pm #

    Tamara,

    I’ve been using Vitaclay for the past two years, day in day out. And now I can’t help but wonder if the lead has transferred from the lining to the pot due to the interior heating process. What are your thoughts? I’d be glad to send the product to your testing lab to see if the lead content has changed.

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