Published: Monday – December 13, 2021
I’d like to start out by saying that there are TWO reasons that the findings of Lead in this tortilla press are a problem.
- LEAD (which can get into your food) and
- This is not Sur La Table’s first offense (nor second; third;…)
For me, reason #2 is a more important point. This is a company that has been fabricating (commissioning/sourcing); branding; importing and selling Lead-painted (or Lead-glazed) pieces to their unsuspecting customers who ASSUME that the food use products they buy from this brand are safe. We need to stop them from doing this in the future and we NEED to get them to take responsibility for the Leaded products they have sold to unwitting customers up to this point (refunds, product replacements, public announcements/recalls, etc.)
As a customer and member of the general public, you simply CANNOT make the assumption with Sur La Table that their products are safe for use in your kitchen (they are on my list of stores that I recommend not ever shopping at) —as they have too many transgressions in their recent history… and this tortilla press is just the latest among many.
- This company needs to be FINED by our federal agencies for their business practices.
- WE (collectively, as consumers) need to STOP patronizing businesses (including Sur La Table) that have a solid track record of HABITUALLY selling Leaded items, until they make amends and change their behavior.
For context, the dish below was bought at Sur La Table in December of 2019 and (similarly) has an outrageous amount of Lead in the glaze. [Click the image of the dish below if you would like to read more about this product.]
Back to the conversation about the Tortilla Press pictured on this post.
How much Lead is “too much” Lead?
In any item intended for use by children, Lead content must be below 90 ppm in the paint, glaze, or coating for the item to be legal (and any Lead present in the substrate of an item needs to be below 100 ppm), as regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
[Bizarre-but-true fact: cookware is not covered by this regulatory standard, because [except in the State of Washington] cookware is not considered to be “an item intended for use by children” — despite the obvious fact that CHILDREN CONSUME FOOD THAT IS PREPARED IN THE COOKWARE.]
When tested with an XRF Instrument the tortilla press pictured here had the following readings:
- Lead (Pb): 18,000 +/- 800 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): non-detect
- Mercury (Hg): non-detect
- Bromine (Br): non-detect
- Chromium (Cr): 9,270 +/- 541 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 43,400 +/- 1,200 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 12,800 +/- 700 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 438,900 +/- 16,000 ppm
- Testing repeated multiple times to confirm the results.
Below are additional pictures I took (showing the paint peeling) AND additional images of the product as listed TODAY (Monday -12/13/2021) for sale on Sur La Table’s website. (link)
This is part of the “Verve Culture Tortilleria Kit” available today on Sur La Table’s for a mere $49.95. 18,000 ppm Lead is an outrageous amount of Lead. Lead paint is considered “hazardous Lead-based paint” even by the most generous (lax / not strict enough to be protective of children’s health because of corporate influence) government standards when Lead level are in the 5,000 ppm range and up. That standard is for house paint, not for food-use products. This tortilla press came in at levels that were more than THREE TIMES that hazard level (and at 200 times the level that is considered unsafe in an item intended for use by children.)
I know some of my readers don’t appreciate it when I swear, but I would argue that swearing is warranted in this case. From my perspective (the perspective of a mother of a child who has permanent brain damage from being Lead poisoned as a baby) this is an egregious criminal act — to be selling what appears to be a Lead-painted tortilla press in 2021. [I say “appears to be”, as I did not scrape the paint off separately to test — so it is conceivable that some of the Lead detected is reading through from the substrate below – but this is highly unlikely – as this is a cast iron tortilla press (and cast Iron cookware items generally do not have Lead mixed in with the Iron, given their vastly different melting points). I just cannot believe that Sur La Table continues to engage in selling so many highly-Lead-contaminated items.
What should YOU do about this?
If you own one of these, RETURN IT!
- Ask for a REFUND.
- Maybe ask for a separate additional credit to account for potential damages to your family! (Or hold onto the item, and maybe inquire into suing Sur La Table for selling Lead-painted cookware for you to use to feed your family — as – again – this is not a fluke, but rather merely the latest in a long history of blatant examples of Sur La Table’s apparent “corporate policy” of total abdication of responsibility for supply chain due diligence — [or alternately some kind of Lead-painted kitchenware fetish])!
- Report this to the Consumer Product Safety Commission AND to the FDA. Even though this is not technically a violation of the CPSIA, it is possible the CPSC will take action — given this kitchenware item is actually painted with high-Lead paint (or they might toss it over to the FDA to enforce, given the paint is obviously – per my photos below – prone to chipping and deteriorating when the product is used as intended.)
- If you bought it in California – report it to the State of California Department of Public Health (the one I tested was purchased by a family in California!)
- NOTE: This is not the only tortilla press that I have tested that is positive for high levels of Lead. As a category, Tortilla presses are often positive for Lead — either in a decorative coating (as this one is), or in the substrate, as I have found in several I tested that were made of cast aluminum, which many tortilla presses are [cast aluminum cookware products in general almost always test positive for high levels of Lead in the substrate].
But Lead levels this high – and in an obviously fragile painted coating, to boot – are simply outrageous and unacceptable (as are so many Lead-contaminated products sold by Sur La Table)!
Is there a Lead-free option?
If you think your tortilla press might have Lead (because it is painted or made of cast aluminum), here’s a link to a Lead-free replacement option (undecorated, uncoated cast iron). I bought this one last year as a gift for my husband: https://amzn.to/3IQ8qEI
Guidlines for purchasing a tortilla press:
- Avoid aluminum options.
- Avoid options that have any paint or coating on them.
- Be aware that some may look like they are made of silver metal or black metal but often they are painted with a silver or black Lead-based paint.
- Stick with wood tortilla presses (undecorated / unpainted)
- Stainless Steel is a good option (but I have not seen those available at the moment – let me know if you find one)
- Plain uncoated, undecorated cast iron (like the one linked above that I bought my husband) is a good option too.
Some additional links that may be of interest
- More cast iron items we have tested.
- The testing methodology we use in this work.
- More Sur La Table items we have tested.
- More “Made In Mexico” items we have tested.
- Lead Safe Mama guidelines for choosing safer cookware.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them personally as soon as I have a moment – but it may be a while (kids underfoot nearly 24/7 since the start of the pandemic, y’know!)
Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase something after clicking on one of these links, Lead Safe Mama, LLC may receive a small percentage of what you spend – at no extra cost to you.
For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a Federal-award-winning independent advocate for consumer goods safety and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children. Tamara’s sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in August of 2005. She began testing consumer goods for toxicants in 2009 and was the parent-advocate responsible for finding Lead in the popular fidget spinner toys in 2017. Tamara uses XRF testing (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants (specifically heavy metals), including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony and Arsenic. All test results reported on this website are science-based, accurate and replicable. Items are tested multiple times to confirm the test results for each component tested. Please click through to this link to learn more about the testing methodology used for the test results discussed and reported on this website.