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May 15, 2011 06:02 AM

Is this utensil set food safe?

We found this (faux? brass?) hanging utensil set in the basement. There is a "made in India" sticker on one of the pieces, but no other markings. It is non-magnetic. Each piece is roughly a foot long. Is this food safe, or have any other purpose than to hang on a wall and welcome you to colonial Williamsburg?


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  1. If it is brass, there might be a lacquer coating on it to prevent tarnish. If you decided to use if for cooking, you would want to take off the lacquer coating. The only other problem I can think of is is the tools have been soldered. Somewhere I have read of lead in the solder of copper pieces. Your pieces look solid, though.

    Other than that, I have no idea if brass works well for cooking, but someone here will.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo


      I wonder if I can sell it for scrap metal.

      1. re: E_M

        It's really beautiful! I'd gladly hang it on my kitchen wall.

    2. i wouldn't sell it for scrap. i'd do a little research on the web, finding places that sell such things, and how they recommend preparing them for use. also look here on chowhound for posters on indian food boards, i'm thinking lucky fatima and gordeaux (if i recall correctly) and see if you can email them

      1. It looks like brass. Brass and copper has the same health issue -- copper toxicity. They should be coated by something: tin or lacquer or whatever. That said, most adults can handle small amount of copper unless the person have a Wilson's disease or alike. Because you will be using it as utensils and not cookware, the amount of copper exposure should be low.

        1. Copper toxicity, noted above, can be a problem. But lead may be a more significant might issue. Many brass alloys contain significant amounts of the stuff. But for $5 or so you can get a set of lead test strips and find out for yourself whether it's present.

          8 Replies
          1. re: alanbarnes

            alan, please correct me if i am wrong, but if the food contact surface is really just "light," then don't you think there is no real issue with any kind of toxicity?

            1. re: alkapal

              Agreed. But I'd probably leave the spoon sitting in an acidic sauce while it simmered for a few hours. Can't hurt to err on the side of safety.

              1. re: alanbarnes

                I agree with you both. Occasional contact with foods should not be a real problem. That said, I think most people do not like the idea of toxic materials as long as they can avoid them.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  You know that some day you're going to wake up to the headlines that some level of copper oxide prevents some sort of cancer according to some study by some university. Today's headline is how multiple cups of coffee can prevent prostrate cancer. It doesn't seem like all that long ago they were telling people not to drink coffee, that it would speed up your demise, now it lessons your chances of demise. Go figure.

                  More on topic, brassware from India was probably meant to be ornamental. I don't know that I'd want to cook with it. Brass is an issue, most faucet manufacturers are working to eliminate it from their products. We're working with a water meter manufacturer to convert from brass to plastic in their water meters. So it is a real issue. Think about how little contact water has with a water meter, most of the water is in and out in no time, so perhaps a dip in a pot is not as innocent at we might think.

                  1. re: mikie

                    Hi, mikie:

                    Yes, funny how the health studies carom off each other in different directions.

                    With respect, converting plumbing fixtures and water meters from brass to plastic seems relatively crazy. Profitable, but crazy. Is there any science behind this move? *Any* epidemiological studies showing toxicity from brass in contact with food and water?

                    Lead is/was usually alloyed into brass for purposes of machineability. But silicon can be and is often substituted for lead. To put lead in brass waterworks into perspective, the People's Republic of California last year imposed regulations requiring "lead free" brass to contain no more than 1/4 of 1% lead.

                    I would advise the OP to get the $5 lead test kit to verify there is ir isn't lead present. If not, use AND display.


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Hi, Kaleo

                      Well, it's all about getting the lead out, driven, as you say, by the People's Republic of California. I don't know what studies have been done, I assume someone has done them on the brass, although, since it's government pushing this, maybe not. Government is a bit reactionary and should never have the issues cloudied by actual data. For those of us in the plastics industry, we're the new guys and we have had to do studies and get materials approved for use by the FDA or NSF (potable water standards) or both. Oddly, I'm not sure how profitable that conversion is, but it's obviously the most profitable alternative.

                      One of the other things that's pushing the conversion is new technology in water meters. No longer will someone have to walk by your house to read the meter, it will all be done electronicly. And the new meters start off more accurate and maintain that accuracy for a longer period of time. Check out this link:

                      1. re: mikie

                        Hi, mikie:

                        Interesting. Big Brother will soon be turning your water back on as soon as you meet your quota!


                2. re: alanbarnes

                  I wouldn't use brass utensils, much less ones that appear to be intended for ornament; they heat up very quickly and are reactive with foods. But no matter how inert the material, why would you leave a spoon or other utensil sitting in cooking food?

                  [Edit:] This was intended to be posted as a reply to alanbarnes.

            2. Colonial Williamsburg - Thanks for the ongoing, intermittent chuckle. :)