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The Great Crock Pot Lead Mystery: Solved

The Crock Pot Lead Mystery Solved - How to Test for Lead in Your Slow Cooker - Holistic Squid

I get lots of concerned questions from readers worried that they are poisoning themselves and their families with lead leaching from crock pots. There plenty of vague answers online from manufacturers saying that any lead in the cookware glaze is within government regulations and is otherwise harmless unless the glaze is cracked. Hmm. Not particularly reassuring if you ask me. So, I decided to end the great Crock Pot Lead Mystery once and for all, and take matters into my own hands.

lead check swabs For $2.50 per stick, I ordered these simple lead testers from Amazon. They got decent reviews and proved to be super simple to use.

I cracked open the first one and swabbed it around on my Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker for 30 seconds, like the package says. Other than picking up some residual oil from my inadequate cleaning, the swab remained the yellow of the tester liquid.

Then I tested my older Hamilton Beach slow cooker – same results.

Well, I thought, either my crock pots aren’t leaching lead, or these sticks are bunk. So I decided to test out some other stuff. I activated a second stick and trolled around my house determined to find something containing lead.

I swabbed some old pipes and yard equipment. The stick stayed yellow, if not a bit dirty. I swabbed six different wooden toys that must have been made in China – not even a hint of pink appeared. Then I spotted our leaded glass window on our front door. Eureka!  As soon as my tester hit the metal the swab bloomed a vibrant red.  Lead.

The Crock Pot Lead Mystery Solved - How to Test for Lead - Holistic Squid

No, I haven’t tested all the slow cookers on the market. No, I don’t know how heating the slow cooker over many hours will affect this result – though I will be testing after my next big batch of broth.

But, I DO feel pretty happy with those results.

Are you worried about lead in crock pots?

Solve your own Crock Pot Lead Mystery…

Buy these lead test swabs here, and find out whether your slow cookers are secretly harboring toxicity. Then check back here and report your results.

Let’s end the terror, so we can get back to living with slow cookers peacefully bubbling away on counter tops everywhere.

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Comments

  1. Shellee says:

    Have you heard of MisLEAD America? If not check her page out https://www.facebook.com/MisleadMovie?ref=ts&fref=ts
    She is doing some awesome things and trying to make a documentary about lead. Maybe ask her what crock pots and or how to test them.

    • Ashley H says:

      I love MisLead America! I swab everything for lead now thanks to her! hehe!

    • Andriea says:

      Wow i just checked MisLEAD america, a lot of work done there.  thanks for sharing.

       Emily,  the problem is not as simple as you have it here. With cookware, it’s not the leachable lead that shows up at room temperature with a swab of test strip.  No cookware maker is so foolish to use lead that will rub off like that. It’s about the chemically bound lead either in the form of  crystalline lead or lead frits/ leaded silica that leach into food, that is reactive entity and with heat also present as a cyclist. that’s the real problem. Lead does leach into food from enameled, glazed or any chemically treated cookware. that’s without a doubt, even though it does not show up with test swabs. :((. After a lot of searching i finally found a company that hand crafts cookware made from natural clay and does not glaze or treat its products with any chemicals, Miriams Earthen Cookware. I’ve been cooking in them for some time now and i really love these pots. Have gotten so much more healthier.

  2. jmr says:

    I’ve decided I have time to worry about only so many things; lead in my crockpot doesn’t make the worry list. I’ve read stories of other bloggers who’ve tested their slow cookers and haven’t found lead either so I think we’re safe.

  3. JG says:

    So this sounds like a great idea…but when you click on the link to check them out, it clearly states that it only tests for lead on: painted wood, metal, vinyl & plastic, drywall & plaster. Nothing at all about ceramic, etc…?!

    • Emily says:

      Hi JG, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure that ceramic would be any different to the rest of these surfaces in terms of lead testing,

  4. Alison says:

    Hamilton Beach is one brand that was found not to have lead. Cuisinart is another. That’s probably why it didn’t read. The actual “crock pot” brand is reported to have lead.

  5. Andrea Kargbo says:

    The problem here is not the lead that is going to rub away from the outer surface, but the chemically bound lead that will leach into the food. It is a chemical process where the lead used as part of the raw material (that is now bound chemically) reacts with the food being cooked and leaches into it, with heat acting as a catalyst. The only way to test the presence of lead here is to send the food to a lab for testing. Most cookware manufacturers have lead in them and if it was easy as lead rubbing off from the surface, then FDA would not have approved so many of them. So that’s really not the problem. The problem is with this other kind of lead that is harder to detect. I use MEC Pure-Clay cooking pots… they are just awesome. I’ve used them on my stove top and in my slow cooker. They have NO-lead or any other heavy metals; they are made from pure-mineral rich clay that is tested to ensure the raw material is indeed pure. Also, they’re made in the USA. You should check them out, I would highly recommend that be a part of every healthy kitchen. Just Google MEC pure-clay cooking pots to find them… thanks Andrea.

  6. Bets says:

    A few years ago, I tested my Rival crock pot with a lead swab like the one you used, and it turned pink, as did all the little cracks in the ceramic pot itself! I threw it out immediately! I had read to first heat the crock pot to low, so that it was warm, before testing. That made sense to me since warming things up might enable any leaching, plus food sits in a heated crock for hours. I had read that Rival pots have lead (and that Hamilton Beach pots do not) and my Rival certainly did!

  7. Ann says:

    The last slow cooker I bought has a glass type bowl that sits in the cooking base…. wonder if they are lead free???

    • Abby says:

      I would be very interested to know the name/brand/model of the slow cooker that Ann found with a glass bowl – I would like to look into that more.

      Also, I read that it is the acid in the food (such as anything tomato based) that might cause the leaching – so not sure this testing is convincing. Personally, I believe consumers need to pressure these manufacturers to bring their products back to the U.S. to be made and then expect solid, clear answers on materials used in their processing.

      Cheers!

  8. Margaret Kline says:

    A few years ago I was given a new crock pot as a gift. The ceramic liner was forest green. I cooked a big batch of oatmeal in it overnight. the next morning there was green on top of the oatmeal. I did another batch, same thing. I threw it out. Didn’t even want to give it to Good Will.

  9. RC says:

    I just swabbed my Hamilton Beach crockpot, the test instructions only mentioned if the swab turns yellow, brown or black, no mention of red or pink in there being lead. My crock is warm with a batch of bone broth currently going in it…the swab turned a reddish pink much later than 30 seconds, closer to 60+ seconds.

    From Hamilton Beach’s FAQ on their website:

    Lead and cadmium are naturally occurring elements in the earth. As cooking vessels are earthenware cooking vessels, lead and cadmium may be naturally present. HBB cooking vessels are porcelain enamel coated to create a barrier between food and earthenware. The porcelain enamel coated cooking vessels are evaluated using ASTM extraction test procedures with detection limits of 0.1 ug/ml for lead and 0.01ug/ml for cadmium. In HBB cooking vessels, the amount of lead or cadmium present in the extractant is below the test’s limits of detection. Additionally, the factories that manufacture HBB cooking vessels are certified ceramic production facilities whose ceramic ware is deemed to satisfy FDA heavy metal requirements in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and China. HBB takes all reasonable steps to ensure that our cook vessels provide safe and satisfactory service to our consumers.

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