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copper toxicity and making ladles


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Hi all,

I've been asked to make a bunch of copper ladles (copper bowl, steel handle), which I promptly started on before finding a whole lot of info (which is reasonably unclear) about acidic foods causing a toxic reaction on copper which if ingested can be quite harmful.  Subsequently I've found that most copper cookware is lined with tin, stainless steel etc. to prevent this.

Now having read some posts which cover similar topics on other message boards there seems to be a school of thought that a copper ladle is not going be much a problem as it doesn't get frequent use and will not be used to store acidic food  (which is where the toxicity really comes into play).

Ideally I'd like to hear from people who make and sell copper ladles and how you deal with this potential situation, also are there any out there who regularly use a copper ladle, what has been your experience?  I'd rather not sell something that is potentially harmful, and equally don't really want to sell something with a long list of conditions attached to the ladle's use.

My choice to use copper was to avoid the amount of care required to maintain a forged steel (mild) ladle, as well as some uncertainty how to really seal ladle so that any coating (beeswax, vegetable oil etc...) didn't disappear as the result of use... any advice on this would also be greatly appreciated.

Thanks everyone










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Copper kitchen ware was coated with TIN to protect from acid food contamination.  Normally the only thing in a kitchen made with a copper surface next to food was a mixing bowl used to whip egg whites.

The actual coating process is not particularly safe in itself.   So----  Don't make kitchen utensils for contact with food unless it is labeled as Decoration only!



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Was copper specifically requested? Could you use stainless steel in it's place? 


I get the impression that a clean copper ladle used on the type of thing ladles typically get used for, would take some time to produce any harmful side effects. But don't quote me on that. Best to ere on the side of caution. 

A quick google suggests it's fine for sugary items and particularly good for egg whites. I've yet to find information on how long this process takes. 


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The main disadvantage of copper would be if it adversely flavoured the food.

If the acidic food was so strong that a significant amount of copper was dissolved I would be worrying about ingesting the acid more than the copper.

Copper water pipes are used in houses situated in both alkali limestone and granite areas.

I know that if you run a wire along either side of your roof ridge the acid rain is enough to leach sufficient copper to keep the tiles clear of lichen.

Copper has good antibacterial properties which make it great for door handles...usually alloyed with zinc in brass.

If I file, emery, or polish copper with Scotchbrite, the copper dust reacts with my skin for a day or two. 

There are good reasons why most utensils that come in contact with food tend to be made nowadays from Stainless Steel.

I forge all my ladles and spoons from one piece of 316 Stainless Steel in order that there is no crevice in the joint between bowl and handle which could harbour food waste/bacteria.

You pays your money and takes your choice...



p.s. there have been a couple of threads on here about copper and concerns re food safety. They tend to go around with much the same views being expressed each time...do a search, something in one of them may speak to your condition.


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Coper in contact with food has always been coated with tin n.b. tin not solder containg lead and other stuff. This side of the pond you can buy sets for tinning food utensils that are not dangerous to use. In principle you clean the surface, put on a paste and hold it over a flame or forge if you have one. When the paste runs you are finished. This is the traditional way of doing it and you can buff off any tin that has run to the outside of the ladle.

Copper is extensively used for water pipes so the poison thing cannot be that severe unless you store food. Community water suppliers usually increase the pH artificially to decrease the rate of corrosion in the pipes so the type of rock is not that significant. Food can be considerably more acid than water in a granite area. There is vinegar in many dishes.

There are areas in Europe where copper is not allowed as roofing because of the leakage of copper ions. As usual the poisoning effect depends upon the dose.

I would tin th einside it looks quite good. The traditional skillet here has an iron handle is made from copper and tin coated on the inside. 

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Charles, I have some scrap copper sheet from a water heating tank (we deduced it prudent to install a replacement when after some 50 years it developed a leek) the inside of which has a rather hard, dark green coating of what I believe is copper oxide, I managed to remove it with an over night soak in glacial acetic acid, worked a treat! I now have clean copper sheet and presumably, a quantity of copper acetate, (re Thomas.)

Suggests to me that the cautions re cooking/acid/copper have merit at least within the conditions I mention above.

(Maybe I should see how the same batch of GAA reacts to tin!!!!:D)

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