Is brass food safe?

What is copper?

Copper is a mineral element that is soft, malleable. It is found in various parts of the world. Metallurgists combine pure copper with other elements to create alloys that are stronger than native copper.

Brass: Brass is an alloy that is formed by combining copper and zinc.

Bronze: When copper and tin are mixed, the resulting alloy is called bronze.

Remember that the words(bronze and brass) are sometimes used interchangeably, but these two alloys are different from each other. Brass is harder and it is more resistant to corrosion.

As it is discussed that brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and it may contain very small amounts of other metals including aluminum, iron, manganese, nickel, tin, and lead. Since the latter metals are in very low concentrations because they are not so important in the context of toxicity, but they should not be forgotten because many of them – especially lead and aluminum – are toxic after prolonged exposure.

Both copper and zinc are toxic (except at very low doses which are indeed beneficial). They are both very soluble in water, even in boiling water, but they are very soluble in acids and bases. For instance, if you make chutney (with vinegar) in a brass pan you are probably to dissolve sufficient copper and zinc from the brass to make the resulting chutney toxic. Similarly, if you serve acid or basic food on a brass plate, zinc and copper will dissolve in the food and the result is that the food becomes toxic.

Historical Uses

Brass was discovered between 3500 and 4500 B.C. And it was a mixture of copper and arsenic, while a mixture of tin and copper precedence about 1,000 years later. Because of its toughness and hardness, it began to replace the stone in weapons and eventually in cookware. Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations helped to spread the use of brass throughout Europe, while China and India are known for their brass, both decorative and pure.

Lead on its own in a pure context is a very different matter. The Romans used lead cookware and often used verjuice – an acid ferment of unripe grapes – to cook with. This would mean that they have high levels of lead in their food. This, combined with lead in their water supply from lead pipes, led to sufficiently high lead intakes to cause brain damage Which seems to have been a factor in the downfall of the Roman Empire.

Precautionary measures:

While using brass utensils, make sure they are in modern preparation. Older items may contain some lead or arsenic along with the copper and tin. These elements can leak metal into your food during cooking which is very harmful because both lead and arsenic are cumulative poisons; that is, they can build up in your body over time and undermine your health before severe symptoms appear. Modern manufacturers of Brass cookware and flatware advised that we have to avoid using these items with acidic foods. We have to avoid such foods that contain vinegar, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. It is also recommended that we have to not store food in Brass containers for extended periods. Tin is also used in modern brass utensils for coating purposes. If your utensils contain such a coating of tin, inspect it regularly for damage and have the coating repaired as required.

Brass Safety

As it is discussed before that brass is an alloy of two natural elements, copper and zinc. How safe is it when used as a surface material in your home, restaurant, or business?

Brass, by itself, is not toxic unless you eat large amounts of it. The constituents that makeup brass ( copper and zinc) are formed naturally and are found in many multi-vitamins and foods.  

Let it be confirmed that the food cooked in or served from brass containers is safe. You would need to know the pH of the food. I don’t think it is likely that most of us would want to check the pH of food before we cooked it or served it from our good and old brass utensils and so, on balance, it would be better not to use such utensils in contact with food.

You can also try a very simple experiment to demonstrate this. First of all, put a few drops of vinegar in one of your brass vessels and leave it and wait for an hour. With time when you return to see it, you will see that the vinegar will change its color. It will turn into a blue-green color because of the copper that was dissolved in it.

While considering brass as a long-lasting material in your home or hospitality plan, you have to keep in mind that most food preparation is not done directly on the surface. Can you cut a piece of bread directly on the surface – sure, and you can leave a scraper that is likely to be unnoticeable within a day. Is it better to use a cutting board? Of course, it is very best for the food and the knife. Can you eat food that has been lying directly on the table? Yes, you can, but at least don’t throw out your plates. Brass has been used for food storage and drinking utensils for centuries, however, we recommend not eating it directly.

Care and Cleaning

Brass that is not lacquered will become stained and corrode easily if it is left in contact with food or liquid. It is a good idea to wash your Brass utensils immediately after using it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, use a commercial cleaner specially formulated for brass, or use a homemade paste containing 1 teaspoon of salt that dissolves in 1 cup of white vinegar and mixed with enough flour to make a paste. When the pasta is ready, just apply the paste on the brass. After the paste is applied to brass completely, let it sit for 15 to 60 minutes, then rinse with clean, warm water and dry polish. Remember that never use harsh or abrasive cleaners on your Brass utensils, as these types of cleaners can damage both the Brass itself and any lacquer or tin protective coating.

It has to remember that

Interestingly, some cooking processes benefit from very low concentrations of copper. Let’s clear it from an example, Eggs whites beaten in copper or brass bowls make very much better meringues that when glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowls are used. The reason for this is that the Copper ions are attached to the protein molecules in the egg whites to form a more stable and air-trapped structure. So copper is not always bad in the kitchen. It is good some times.

Remember that other compounds encountered in cookware and serving/drinking utensils also deserve our attention. Let’s take an example, In the past, pewter ( it is an alloy of tin, lead, antimony, and copper) was used extensively to make plates and tankards. Its ingredients are all extremely toxic in their own right, but when found in the pewter alloy they are far less chemically available and even less troublesome. Despite this, I would not eat off pewter plates, but I do drink my Sunday night pint of beer from an old pewter tankard.

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