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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.

      1. re: paulj

        Corelle contains plastic/resins which often contain BPA. I'd go with Fiesta ware. It's made in the USA and based on what I've read it has no lead or BPAs.

        1. re: lgwood1003

          Where'd you get that information?

          I can't seem to find anything that backs up that assertion.

          1. re: MplsM ary

            I read it online and admittedly there was conflicting information and nothing absolute but absent a confirmation I'd rather be safe than sorry. If the companies that make these products can't come out with a statement of fact that their products don't contain these chemicals then I have to assume they're hiding something. Why else would they not address the questions head-on?
            Here's a link to a site with info on both Corelle (some lead, BPA not addressed) and Fiesta:

            I've also looked into Heath (made in Sausalito) and although it's beautiful, it's expensive for everyday dishes. I actually settled on a set I found on Amazon:

            I'm making an effort to get rid of chemical laden items in my house. I have gone for ceramic cookware, and eliminated a lot of plastic used for food storage and am opting for a more "natural" method. I'm also a 60+, tree-hugging liberal and most of my family thinks I'm a loveable but a little crazy "cat lady" (although I only have one cat; you get the idea). Namaste my friend and good luck.

            1. re: lgwood1003

              Okay... one commenter on the internet posted that she heard there's BPA in Corelle. Can't ask for more definitive proof than that. :)

              Safe is a relative term, but nobody is helped by spreading inaccurate information or rumors.

              1. re: MplsM ary

                There were others. My point was, why take chances if you don't have to. It's not like we're spreading rumors about a local, small business. This is a corporation. Don't you think THEY have a responsibility for manufacturing safe, eco-friendly products and making sure we all know that's what their product are? I think there are valid reasons not to trust corporations or even government agencies that don't disclose the facts. Look what trusting the FDA got us. Monsanto and the poisons they put into our food system for the sake of profits. Uh-oh, now you've got me going. :-o

                1. re: lgwood1003

                  Isn't Corelle made of glass by Corning? Now their pyrex name has been sold to China and I've read reports that the quality of the glass isn't as good. I buy old pyrex at thrift stores, made in U.S.A. Two of my sons once worked for a company that sold imported Pewter wares. Gorgeous stuff. First the company contracted with Mexican companies to produce lead-free pewter, but they soon found that the companies weren't being true to the contracts. Then the company moved their production to Indian factories with somewhat better results. About that time, both boys went to work for other companies and I don't know what happened to the pewter manufacturing. My personal opinion is that glass and china are superior to plastic. And if the china is older, I don't microwave or put it in the dishwasher.

                  1. re: janeathab

                    "Pyrex" was not sold to China. The brand is now owned by World Kitchen International, a U. S. company based in Illinois, and Pyrex glass is made in the United States.

                    1. re: janeathab

                      This is part of an article in Wikipedia about Pyrex. It mentions that some companies manufacture "Pyrex" "out of the United State." doesn't actually say all the places out of the states. It is possible that China is not one of them. Here is the exerpt.
                      "Corning divested its consumer products division in 1998, forming the company World Kitchen, LLC. Corning discontinued its production of Pyrex products, but still licensed the Pyrex brand name to other companies, including World Kitchen and Newell Cookware Europe.[5] France-based cookware maker Arc International acquired Newell's European business in early 2006[6] and currently owns rights to the brand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.[7][8]

                      A clear borosilicate glass Pyrex measuring cup produced by Corning (right) and a clear tempered Pyrex soda-lime glass measuring cup produced by World Kitchen (left, differentiated by its different logo and bluish tint)
                      Older clear-glass Pyrex manufactured by Corning before 1998, Arc International's Pyrex products, and Pyrex laboratory glassware is made of borosilicate glass. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, borosilicate Pyrex is composed of (as percentage of weight): 4.0% boron, 54.0% oxygen, 2.8% sodium, 1.1% aluminium, 37.7% silicon, and 0.3% potassium.[9][10]

                      According to glass supplier Pulles and Hannique, borosilicate Pyrex is made of Corning 7740 glass and is equivalent in formulation to Schott Glass 8830 glass sold under the "Duran" brand name.[11] The composition of both Corning 7740 and Schott 8830 is given as 80.6% SiO2, 12.6% B2O3, 4.2% Na2O, 2.2% Al2O3, 0.04% Fe2O3, 0.1% CaO, 0.05% MgO, and 0.1% Cl.

                      Pyrex glass cookware manufactured by World Kitchen is made of tempered soda-lime glass instead of borosilicate.[12] World Kitchen justified this change by stating that soda-lime glass was cheaper to produce, is the most common form of glass used in bakeware in the US, and that it also had higher mechanical strength than borosilicate—making it more resistant to breakage when dropped, which it believed to be the most common cause of breakage in glass bakeware. Unlike borosilicate, it is not as heat-resistant, leading to the potential increase in breakage from heat stress. European Pyrex is still made from borosillicate.[5][13][14]

                      The differences between Pyrex products depending on manufacturer has also led to safety issues—in 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission received several complaints by users reporting that their Pyrex glassware had shattered at high temperatures. The consumer affairs magazine Consumer Reports investigated the matter after obtaining copies of the complaints, determining that the complainants had in fact been using World Kitchen-produced Pyrex labeled products manufactured with lower-cost tempered flint glass and had incorrectly assumed that they would have the same characteristics and strength as their borosilicate counterparts.[15]"

                      I hope this clarifies my comments about Pyrex. I still only buy the older Pyrex made by Corning.

                      1. re: MplsM ary

                        Emile Henry has nice ceramic plates that are made in France and are Lead and Cadmium free. Duralex also has good glass plates.

                  2. re: lgwood1003

                    Let me get this straight: you read conflicting reports by various entities on the internet that Corelle might contain plastics that might have BPA, and you do two things. First you decide not to use Corelle. That's fine, I understand taking the safest of all possible routes approach. Second, you write in an internet forum the unqualified assertion: "Corelle contains plastic/resins which often contain BPA." Hmm.

                    It sounds like you have the potential to bring bring helpful information to this forum, but it's only helpful if it's presented truthfully.

                  3. re: MplsM ary

                    I just googled FiestaWare lead free and got this hit, from the Homer Laughlin website:

                    "Is Fiesta® Dinnerware lead free?
                    Yes. Fiesta® Dinnerware is lead free.
                    Since 1992 when a major manufacturing process change took place at The Homer Laughlin China Company, all of the dinnerware produced for the retail and food service markets has been "lead-free." Fiesta® Dinnerware has been "lead-free" since 1986. The phrase "lead-free" has been and is used in connection with ceramics, including dinnerware products, in which a lead compound was not deliberately purchased and added as part of the composition even though a trace amount of lead may be present in the other naturally occurring raw materials. Because of the trace amounts of lead found in almost all ceramic raw materials, Homer Laughlin China chooses not to use the phrase"100% lead free."

                    In a recent court case in California, a Consent Judgment stated that "no detectable lead," which the ceramic industry understands to mean "lead-free," means that lead is not detected "at a level above two one hundreds of one percent (0.02) by weight or 200 parts per million of lead." The products manufactured by The Homer Laughlin China Company contain 50 times less than this amount.

                    The Homer Laughlin China Co. sends its products to an independent laboratory to check for leachable lead release. All products indicate a lead release less than 0.002 parts per million. FDA highest allowable lead release is 0.5 parts per million. The Homer Laughlin leachable lead release is 250 times less than the highest allowed by the FDA. California Proposition 65 highest allowable lead release is 0.1 parts per million. The Homer Laughlin leachable lead release is 50 times less than allowed by the State of California."


                    1. re: MplsM ary

                      It's not true. Corelle is made of layers of glass. The cited article mentioned stoneware, which would only be certain of their cups or rather mugs. All the plates etc. that say vitrelle are glass. Read the answer to #15 and # 2 and you'll see that the mugs are not the same. (Link)

                      In fact the mugs(stoneware)are made in China. BPA would only refer to plastic lids!

                      Corelle plates and bowels are the safest stuff you could eat off of.

                    2. re: lgwood1003

                      Corelle is made of Vitrelle, which is three layers of thermally-bonded glass. The exterior is entirely glass. There is no BPA in glass, and not likely any BPA in the interior of Vitrelle. Corelle is as safe as anything made of glass.

                  4. 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.

                    21 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 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: liveforfood

                                      I agree with everything you said. I have watched the company I work for outsource jobs to India and I can't tell you how disappointed I am. It's not just the low paying manufacturing jobs that are leaving the country. These are technical positions (programmers, analysts, etc.) that India can get for pennies on the dollar. It's slave labor of a different kind and it's putting our country at risk. Again, you're not crazy and neither am I. We're concerned, awake and paying attention is what we are. Keep it up and thanks.

                                    3. 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:

                                      1. re: Jennalynn

                                        While you're correct, not everything made in China is tainted, I read up on this subject and by all accounts the majority of lead-tainted dishware comes from China. Some dishware produced in the USA prior to 1970 (or thereabouts) also contains lead. And the lead testing kits only test for lead in the glaze, not in the dish itself. Play it safe and get dishware that is certified not to contain all. Lead is no more necessary for dishware than it was for gasoline.

                                        1. re: lgwood1003

                                          I hope you don't mean 100% lead free. No china or stoneware maker can guarantee that. They may use lead-free glazes and use no lead in the manufacturing process, but lead is found in trace amounts in all kinds of naturally occurring clays.

                                          What I'm saying is, there's lead and there's lead. There's no way to get it all out.

                                      2. 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.