BBQ Enamelled Grills Can Release Unsafe Amounts of Heavy Metals into Food
A study by German authorities of enamelled cooking grates was conducted to investigate on the release of several metals during food preparation. It showed that several products available on the market release unsafe amounts of nickel and arsenic into food.
SAFEGUARDS | Hardlines NO. 115/18
On July 26, 2018, the German Federal Agency of Risk Assessment (BfR) published its 024/2018 opinion  on metal release from enamelled barbecue (BBQ) cooking grates. The study is based on a project of market surveillance authorities in the federal states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia from 2017. The authorities investigated if and to what extent enamelled cooking grates, on steel and cast-iron substrate, set metallic elements of the enamel layer free during the roasting process and transfer them into the food.
Gas or charcoal grills are often equipped with cooking grates made of steel or cast iron. The materials are good heat conductors as well as heat reservoirs and allow food to be roasted evenly. To protect against corrosion, and for easy cleaning, some cooking grates are coated with enamel. Enamel is a glassy solidified melt of silicates and oxides of different metals. It can be aluminum, antimony, but also containing arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, iron, cobalt, lithium and nickel.
The enameled BBQ cooking grates have been tested regarding a possible release of the metallic elements from the enamel into the grilled food. The BfR evaluated the available data for the release of the elements aluminum, antimony, arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, iron, cobalt, lithium and nickel from several BBQ cooking grates into different food simulants. Applied simulants are acetic and citric acid as well as artificial tap water. As a result, it was found, that in some of the cooking grates examined, significant amounts of aluminum, antimony, arsenic and nickel are released. It was also found in the same study that there are cooking grates which released less and acceptable amounts of the investigated metals.
BfR assessed the results in terms of health risks. Since there are no legally binding maximum quantities, BfR has determined acceptable exposure values. These are those amounts of metals which the human body can absorb without compromising health. The BfR concludes that for several cooking grates the tolerable exposure is significantly exceeded. Nickel and arsenic are released in amounts which endanger human health.
Among the products examined there were enamelled cooking grates showing low release rates of these elements. This shows that an appropriate production following good manufacturing practice (GMP) is possible. Manufacturers of BBQs making use of enamelled cooking grates should therefore consider possible causes for the release of metal and take suitable measures to reduce the metal release as much as possible.
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