Ministry investigating ‘carcinogenic’ kitchenware

Public health chief previously said material found by ‘Kolbotek’ was safe.

Shop 521 (photo credit: (
Shop 521
(photo credit: ([email protected])
The Health Ministry is looking into the investigative report on TV Channel 2’s Kolbotek program on Monday night that found the “majority” of ceramic coated pots, pans, baking tins and even knives have excess amounts of the toxic metals cadmium and lead.
Presenter Rafi Ginat said the show sent a large number of the kitchenware pieces to an independent lab that is also used by the Health Ministry and found that most brands of ceramic pots, pans, baking tins and cutlery endanger public health, as the metals are carcinogenic.
Ginat maintained that there was “no official standard” for the products, even though they comprise 75 percent of all sold in the country. Ceramic cookware is sold all over the world, but it is not clear whether those containing the toxic metals are marketed.
The few brands that are free of the toxic metals, such as Arcosteel, are among the most expensive on the market, thus the public purchases more of the allegedly toxic ones, Ginat said. The products are widely marketed in writing and by salesmen as being not only non-stick but also “healthy.”
A year ago, The Jerusalem Post posed the question whether ceramic cookware is safe to Prof. Itamar Grotto, chief of public health at the ministry. After a number of exchanges, he assured the Post that it was “safe” to use them. Asked about this after this week’s broadcast, Grotto insisted that ceramic cookware had been given an official standard, and those brands that passed the standard can be considered safe.
Grotto reiterated that “Israel has a standard that limits the concentration of [toxic] metals in such products, and if they meet the standard, there is no concern about negative influences on health.” He said the ministry “is not the only factor responsible for setting, monitoring and enforcing standards. It does not supervise consumer goods at all. The Israel Standards Institution defines the standard and also examines [products], thus one should use only products with official standards.”
But Grotto said that nevertheless, he had already begun to investigate the matter and consider what to recommend to the public. The ministry has said in the past that no object that contains cadmium or lead and is in direct contact with food should be used.
The new type of cookware first appeared in shops about three years ago, but by now, since they are painted with bright colors outside, they have become so popular that many fewer stainless steel, Teflon-coated and other products are sold today. The value of ceramic kitchen products sold each year totals NIS 170 million, Ginat said.
If the brands with excessive levels of carcinogenic metals were proven harmful, many people might throw out their new cookware and not be compensated by the retailers or importers.
The Association for Public Health, a for-profit company set up over five years ago by former ministry officials to operate the School Health Service (and whose contract was subsequently canceled because of poor performance) endorsed ceramic cookware and said it was safe for use.
Grotto said that the ministry now has nothing to do with the association and that neither it nor the for-profit company has the tools with which to assess the amount of toxic metals.
But Prof. Yona Amitai, formerly chief of mother and child health services at the ministry and a professional toxicologist who now researches and teaches toxicology at Bar-Ilan University, said on Kolbotek that based on the lab results, he would not use the products in his own home.
The cookware that was found to have excessive amounts of the carcinogenic metal-covered products included certain models by Neoflam, Rainbow, Home and Fresco, while models by Arcosteel and Go-Green Perfecto had none or permissibly low levels. Half of all ceramic cookware in Israel is made by Neoflam, the show said.
Ginat added that if some brands were made without toxic metals, he did not understand why others had them.