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Feb 9, 2008 12:39 PM

Dinnerware safety--brand suggestions?

I am in the market for some new every day dishes and I don't want to spend a fortune. But I am struck that everything I've seen at a low cost or reasonable prices is made in China and I am concerned about toxicity and safety for food service (I've researched the issue a lot on the web and those who haven't ought to--it is scary) A friend recently bought a lovely set of white Martha Stewart dishware, and while I love the design, they too come from China. I presently have some nice white dishware that I bought 10 years ago at Willaims-Sonoma, not made in China, but it has seen better days, and even W.S. has lots from China now. I am looking for white dishes again in classic style--no frills and reasonably priced. I'd like to be sure they are safe to use and my first preference would be American made (and I don't want Fiestaware)--next choice would be made somewhere that has safety standards in place for what can be sold for food service. Any suggestions?

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    1. re: paulj

      I second the Corelle. Tough stuff.

    2. I think we're getting crazy here.

      Not everything made in China is tainted. If you were to go around your house and clothing and get rid of everything made in China, you'd have a lot of empty spaces.

      What are you worried about with the white MS dishware? Lead? You can buy a very inexpensive lead tester. Or email Martha and ask if they've tested it.

      18 Replies
        1. re: Gio

          Sorry. Old link no longer accessible.

        2. re: Jennalynn

          Of course, I do realize that not everything made in china is tainted, but there is no way to know, because a lot of the ceramics from China do have high levels of lead (see US consumer affairs) and glazing/firing processes that are not up to US standards and do not prevent toxins from leaching into food. This is why many dishware items from china are not diswasher, microwave, or oven safe. Also, many of these items are not safe to serve acidic or hot foods, like salad dressings and soups. While it may seem a "little crazy" to be so concerned about this, frankly, I am. As a mother, I do not want to take risks, especially when it comes to the potential for contaminating food with lead or whatever else when there are other options to avoid this risk, even if some may think it is small (I happen to think it is not small, from the research I have done on the topic). I am also careful about other products I purchase and I do avoid those very tempting-to-buy inexpensive clothing, bedding, candles, toiletries, toys, etc. made in china and I choose other items I can be more certain are safe for my family. I do have a lead tester. I have also contacted companies like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn through e-mail to ask about items made in china that may have lead and I have not received any responses. Safety issue aside, I have other concerns about relying on products from China so heavily, either as an individual or as a society. Our economy has suffered greatly for this and I just hope that people will think twice about what they buy from china and make efforts to support U.S. manufacturers--for safety and economic reasons.

          1. re: liveforfood

            Although I appreciate your concerns about cheap products from overseas, there are also many things of excellent quality produced by our trading partners. Similarly, not everything Made in America is of the quality we might like it to be. Unfortunately, we can manufacture some real crap in this country as well.
            I think it's important to purchase from reputable companies when we buy things that we are going to eat from or cook in. Lead and other things can leach out into the food we eat if the glazes are improperly applied or are defective in some way. A cheap vase for some flowers - maybe. A cereal bowl for my kids - no way!

            1. re: MakingSense

              I agree with you--I'm not really an extremist about this, and sure there is loads of plain junk produced here. Made in America doesn't guarantee safety and quality, and yes, purchasing items from reputable companies is the best strategy. Also, a smart and critical consumer can usually do the research and find out more before making a purchase (part of the reason I started this thread, to learan what others might know as a place to start). I think with products made in China, or other places, there is no way to get more info, or at least, I have not found that to be the case. At one point I heard that there would be American inspections of ceramics and other food-related paraphenalia imported from China, and those that met safety standards would be labeled as such with a seal of some kind, but I have heard nothing else about this. Does anyone know about this?

              Perhaps this is more of a plea for transparency about the safety and quality of products we purchase--we need more information about these kinds of goods (and others, at least I do), before I am willing to let my child eat off of them.

              I still feel a need to buy American goods whenever I can, though. I live in a state that has deep economic scars because of industry moving abroad, and it is a tragedy to me to see what has happened to so many communites (and the people in them) because the economic infrastructures have disappeared.

              1. re: liveforfood

                I, too. look for "Made in the USA." Libbey's, Anchor Hocking, Pfatlzgraf, Corning--It would be terrible for these companies to move completely out of this country. You can't even buy American-made toothpicks anymore.

                Johnson Brothers dishes were, last I looked, still made in the USA. Hope they still are.

                Fiestaware is still made in the US.

                1. re: Angela Roberta

                  FYI Pfatlzgraf is now made in China now also.

                  1. re: Angela Roberta

                    I wasn't aware that Johnson Brothers was made in the USA. Used to be made in England. Not sure anymore. I recently looked in a couple of fine department stores and it seemed just about all the china was made in China or perhaps Indonesia. In this instance, used china may be just the thing. There's always Replacements.com that has an entire warehouse in North Carolina of previously manufactured china.

                    1. re: Angela Roberta

                      So far as I know, Johnson Brothers (which was bought out by Wedgwood some years back), like other Staffordshire dishes, was made in England, not the U.S. Unfortunately, some I saw recently while in the UK is now being made not in England, so if you buy modern Johnson Brothers and want the English made, do check.

                2. re: liveforfood

                  ITA. I've been checking the bottoms of dishware, flatware and glassware these last couple months to see where they were manufactured. Anything "Made in China" goes back on the shelf. When purchasing online, if the dish says "imported", I'll call the site to confirm in which country it was made.

                  Maybe overkill to some, but I prefer having a peace of mind.

                  1. re: OCAnn

                    The problem is that just because it's NOT made in China doesn't mean that it must be safe.

                      1. re: OCAnn

                        Yes -- look at the recent tainted eggs situation (i know, moving into food board territory...)

                  2. re: liveforfood

                    I am so glad that you brought up the safety issue (and also the issue of the U.S.A.'s loss of manufacturing jobs), as I have been worried about lead in dinnerware since the Made in China toy scare. I needed new everyday dishes and finally ended up getting Dansk made in Thailand. They get very hot in the microwave and that has concerned me because I had heard dishes with lead get hot (anyone know for sure). I have not tested my dishes but now I will. Need to get one of those testers! Thanks to Chow I have found out that others share my concern. I have not read about dish concerns in the newspapers or heard it mentioned on TV. Let's start manufacturing china again in the USA with strict standards!

                    1. re: callpromo

                      Homer Laughlin China makes Fiesta dinnerware in Newell, West Virginia. It is totally lead free.

                      1. re: callpromo

                        There are still dishes made here, you just have to look beyond the department stores in most cases. The OP wanted Not made in China at a reasonable price. Hall China company makes their wares in Ohio, it's restaurant grade, looks really nice and the prices are much less than you might expect. I got mine from a restaurant supply company, where they sell it by the case of 12, which works out for me because I want 12 place settings anyway. I've also got Apilco, made in France, but that does not in my opinion meet the low cost requirement.

                    2. re: Jennalynn

                      I completely understand your concern given that you have children. Here is a really cheap lead tester (it's like $7 ish), so you can check before you spend a lot of money buying all new dinnerware:

                    3. Try Fishs Eddy in New York. As far as I know, all of their dinnerware is still Made in America! Great stuff, clever and lots of fun. They also have plain white - a dressy style and good old diner dishes. I've always been delighted with the things I've gotten from them.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Many thanks for this link! Very cool looking stuff, and looks like prices are very reasonable. Lots of items that are just what I had in mind! I will take more time to peruse and do some shopping.

                        1. re: liveforfood

                          Also take a look at Apilco. It's simple white porcelain, made in France for over a century, clean designs, widely available at Williams Sonoma, via Amazon, EBay, occasionally and randomly at such outlets as TJMaxx and Marshalls (but only random pieces, not dinnerware sets).

                          I've had some Apilco ramekins for years and they are sturdy. If you google the brand name you'll get a number of hits. Good Luck.

                          1. re: janniecooks

                            Apilco, although not made in America, is absolutely first-rate porcelain, as is Pilluvuyt, both of which are available at W-S and at many fine stores and on-line. I've had some of mine for more than 35 years and it is as beautiful today as when I got it. I add to it all the time. Sur LaTable carries Revol, another French porcelain (200 year old company) as well as their own porcelain line (although I'm not sure where it's made.)

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              Sur La Table white porcelain is largely manufactured in Turkey; a few pieces come from different places (e.g. Italy), but the vast majority comes from Turkey.

                        2. re: MakingSense

                          Alas, most of what Fishs Eddy sells now are Chinese imports (except for some of the glass pieces). I had read an article about this earlier this year and I phoned them and they confirmed this. Too bad, because they have very cute designs...

                        3. You may also want to check your local restaurant supply store. While many of the items are "Made in China", there are still non-Chinese finds...porcelain from Europe, utensils from Japan...all at very good prices.

                          1. All I know of for sure, is not Sango. I bought service for 16. All pieces, all sizes, all the same pattern, a light green, dark green on the outside, with muddled green in there too. Upon washing them the first time in the dishwasher, the glaze came off a bunch of the pieces. Then fadeage started. I took them all back to Macy's at Christmas, with cash receipt in hand and still had the toughest time getting a refund, plus, it took hours. Just no Sango is all I can tell you. Go with a tried and true brand, a well known brand. They don't have to cost an arm and a leg.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: iL Divo

                              My experience with Sango is similar to yours. It is crapware. It is supposed to be microwave safe, but I've thrown out many pieces because it cracks in the microwave.