The Great Crock Pot Lead Mystery: Solved

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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 are 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 take matters into my own hands and end the great Crock Pot Lead Mystery once and for all.

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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    • 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.

      • vandana says

        hi Andriea, i am considering purchasing. How have you liked your pot? i had an old crock pot with lots of cracks which i got rid of. i can’t think how much i’ve used it for making bone broths..all that slow simmering and possiblity of lead leaching. ugh. so now i’m consdiering your recommendation instead of getting another glazed/crockpot. do you use yours for making stock/bone broths?

        • says

          You clearly don’t realize that bone broth is a significant source of lead by itself. This bone broth fad is so stupid. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

      • Lorraine says

        I have a crockpot that I stripped all the interior glaze from (accidentally) when I cleaned off the burned-on layer of food. Do you think that would remove the possibility of lead leaching into food, or would there be other nasty things things from the ceramic leaching in?

  1. 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.

    • Missy says

      I think I have to agree with you. I’m just getting so exhausted. I have to start picking and choosing what to worry about.

  2. 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…?!

    • 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,

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

    • 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.


  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    • Dixie says

      The bone broth will have lead in it, naturally occurring from the bone used. The ceramic used in a crock will provide a barrier between the naturally occurring lead in the clay vessel and the food. If the glaze is scratched or worn, try a slow cooker cooking liner.

  8. Ch.A. says

    I hear it is the CrockPot brand that has the lead.

    After my first batch with a CrockPot brand slow cooker – I felt really sick – almost like the flu. Just overnite.

    I eventually called the company – asked them about lead and told them how I felt sick.
    They offered to pay for my medical bill…! Right away. No questions asked…

    It had already been a few weeks + did not incur any expenses.

    but still….

  9. nat says

    I read recently that the lead will leach from the slow cooker when HEATED. Was this tested when heated?

    • says

      So instead of using a Crock pot that is leaching Lead your suggesting people use a Plastic Liner that leaches out all kinds of other Chemicals into the food that are no better for us than Lead. I’d like to find one of the Glass lined Slow cooker that was mentioned. I Love my slow cooker and now am not sure I want to use it for food. Maybe for Candle making instead!

      • says

        When you use a crock pot, ANY crock pot, just use a glass/pyrex-type bowl inside the crock pot so that your food doesn’t touch the actual ceramic part, if you’re really worried that there’s an inordinate amount of leaching going on. Better yet, scrap the crock pot and do what I do: use a turkey roaster (with the removeable graniteware tub) and set your casserole dish inside. It’s like using an oven only you aren’t heating up the whole house during the summer months. I keep mine on the back deck near a plug-in and use it to bake angel food cakes and make casseroles and soups and pies and anything else you can think of – anything you can make on your stovetop or in your oven. My roaster is a Hamilton Beach 22 qt and they can be found in any hardware store or online. There are different sizes too, I think 18 qt, and there are different brand names like Nesco and Rival, etc. They are not much more expensive (unless you purchase the elite ones) than a crock pot, either. The beauty of doing it this way is that you can cook anything you want anytime you want, as long as it doesn’t rain. If you have a covered deck, you’re probably not even worried about rain.

        Why cook foods for your family in a vessel you have to worry about, health-wise?? That doesn’t even make sense. Get a turkey roaster. Problem solved.

        • Sarah says

          Unfortunately most glass (particularly if made in China) also has lead in it! I wouldn’t brew in glass unless it was made in the USA or Italy and I had verified it was lead free.

  10. Justina says

    You really should remove this article. In order to properly test ceramic you need to use an XRF, not the swabs that you used. The swabs are mainly for testing painted wood items, not things like ceramic. There is more information at on the dangers of lead.

  11. Mary Jane Hinnerichs says


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