Corelle has remained among the most popular dishware brands since its 1970s introduction. Known for their fun, vibrant patterns and low weight yet high durability, 35% of American households owned Corelle by the 1980s.
Today, however, there is some concern over the safety of vintage Corelle dishes.
A recent New Hampshire Public Health Facebook post went viral after questioning Corelle’s safety. Particularly pre-2005 dishware. Many of us were left wondering – is there lead in Corelle dishes? And are vintage Corelle dishes safe?
In short, any Corelle dishware made after 2005 is safe and complies with current FDA regulations on lead in dishes. And they have lots of modern lead-free patterns to choose from.
But are Corelle plates from before 2005 safe to eat on?
In this post, we’ll explore Corelle’s safety and carefully review the known Corelle patterns with lead. We’ll also discuss why lead is used in dishware production, how it leaches, how to tell if a dish contains lead, and more.
Let’s get started.
Does Corelle Have Lead?
On May 20, 2022, the New Hampshire Department of Public Health Services posted a Corelle lead warning. Since then, the post has gone viral, with over 7,000 people commenting and over 83,000 shares.
So, what was the post saying, and why did it receive so much attention?
The post caption reads:
“UPDATE: Elevated lead levels are most dangerous in young children and pregnant mothers. The FDA started to regulate lead-levels in dishware in 1971. Decades of daily use can cause deterioration of the paint, exposing the lead and making it easily ingestible. This post is an educational opportunity for people to know that vintage dishes can be a source of lead exposure. Learn more at: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/…/lead-poisoning-prevention…. If you own Corelle® dinnerware from before 2005, consider removing it from your kitchen cabinets due to concerns for high levels of Lead. Corelle® recommends using their pre-2005 dishes as “decorative pieces”. Discover which patterns contain Lead: http://ow.ly/kMkN50JeqMn.”
Let’s break down this post to understand why lead was used in dishware, how it can leach into food, and why it’s dangerous. Then, we’ll cover the FDA’s response to this risk, and whether your pre-2005 Corelle contains lead.
How Does Lead Leach into Food?
Historically, manufacturers used lead in the production of dishware as a sealant. It helps keep moisture from harming decorative patterns underneath the glaze. Lead also helps strengthen the glaze, giving plates a smooth, durable finish.
Unfortunately, as NH Public Health’s post mentions, lead can leach out of the glaze and into your food over time (and into you when you eat from that plate).
Lead exposure can result in various health problems over time. And the amount of lead that leaches from the dishware will depend on a few factors, including:
- The type of dish (more on that below)
- The type of glaze
- The type of food in the dish
- The amount of time food is left sitting in the dish
For example, acidic foods, long storage times, and higher heat can increase leaching. So don’t heat acidic foods (like pasta with red sauce or rice with soy sauce) in the microwave with leaded plates. Also, don’t store food in dishes that might contain lead.
Improper manufacturing is also a significant cause of lead leaching. As FDA consumer safety officer Mike Cashtock explains—
“Lead-glazed stoneware is safe when properly manufactured and bound in the glaze. But the issue is pottery baked at inadequate or uncontrolled temperatures. When this happens, the lead is not fully joined and leaches into food.”
How to Tell if There’s Lead in Your Dishware
So how can you tell if there’s lead in your dishware? As the NH Public Health Services pointed out, “vintage dishes can be a source of lead exposure.”
Several kinds of dishes, including vintage ones, are more likely to contain lead. These include:
- Glazed terra cotta from Mexico or the Southwestern U.S.
- Hand-made or hand-painted tableware.
- Decorated traditional Asian dishes, especially those made before 1971.
- Raised decorations on top of the glaze.
- Plates with a corroded glaze or scratches in the glaze.
- Rich orange, red, and yellow colors or patterns (unless it’s labeled lead-free).
Read more in our actionable guide: How to Tell if Dishes Have Lead.
Why Is Lead in Your Dishes Unsafe?
It’s vital to avoid lead in your dishware, as exposure to it poses a significant health risk. Lead ingestion, even at low levels, can result in lead poisoning.
Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults include:
- Joint, muscle, and stomach pain
- High blood pressure
- Memory problems and trouble concentrating
- Mood changes
NH Public Health mentioned that, “elevated lead levels are most dangerous in young children and pregnant mothers.”
At low levels, lead poisoning in children can cause the following:
At high levels, lead poisoning in children can cause behavioral disorders, mental retardation, comas, convulsions, and even death.
Because of these risks, the FDA began tightening dishware regulations in the 1970s. We’ll review these FDA laws next to help us understand our main question: is there lead in Corelle dishes made before 2005?
The FDA’s Response: A Regulatory Crackdown on Lead in Dishware
As the NH Public Health Services post noted, the FDA began to regulate dishware lead levels in 1971. These regulations have been updated and strengthened several times since then… For example, in 1978, lead in lead-based paint was outlawed.
In 2005, the FDA set strict limits on the amount of lead used in dishware production. This was to limit lead leaching into food.
Today, the amount of leachable lead cannot pass three parts per million for plates and two parts per million for small bowls. A label (such as “For decorative purposes only”) MUST be visible if the dish exceeds that amount.
So, while plates produced after 2005 are undoubtedly lead-free, plates made before 2005 are a bit more uncertain. This is why the NH Public Health Service stated, “Corelle® recommends using their pre-2005 dishes as ‘decorative pieces.’”
So, we now know why NH Public Health Services made this post and why it went viral. Lead is scary stuff.
Now let’s see how Corelle responded in the comments section…
Corelle’s Response: Investigating Pre-2000 Dishes for Lead
In response to the above NH Public Health Services’ post, Corelle commented the following:
“We are very proud of our Corelle products, which are made of Vitrelle, a tempered glass consisting of glass laminated into three layers. Corelle was first introduced by Corning over 50 years ago and in 2000 started to be manufactured by the company known today as Instant Brands. All Corelle products meet the safety standards at the time of manufacturing.
As manufacturing and regulatory practices have evolved, so have Corelle products. We routinely test Corelle products for lead and cadmium contents at internationally recognized, third-party testing laboratories. This testing confirms that our products comply with applicable federal and state safety regulations.
Corelle dinnerware has come in many different patterns over the years since it was first introduced by Corning and continued with Instant Brands, and many vintage/legacy pieces have become cherished collectors’ items. Before 2000, and before tighter lead content safety regulations, a small amount of lead was an ingredient in the decorating process of many household products. Given the recent demand for use of vintage products every day, we are further investigating pre-2000 Corelle products to confirm they comply with today’s safety standards – and whether it’s okay to use pre-2000 product as everyday dinnerware.
Whatever way you choose to enjoy your Corelle products, either decoratively or at your table every day, we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.“
Okay, so Corelle decided to investigate the safety of their dishes made before 2000. What did they find?
Corelle stayed true to its word by testing their pre-2000 dishes made before tightened lead regulations.
Which plates did they investigate, and what did they find? Let’s take a look—
What Plates Did Corelle Test?
Corelle tested their patterns made between 1978 and 2000. Their findings are just below.
There are hundreds of different Corelle patterns. To check what year your Corelle was made, check out this alphabetized list.
Which Plates Are Safe?
Finally, let’s address our main concern regarding Corelle’s lead risk and safety.
Michael Hardy, writer for the online blog Thumbwind, reached out to Corelle in May 2022. He asked about their findings from investigating older Corelle dishes. Corelle responded with the following:
So, Corelle discovered that plates dating back to 1978 are safe because they were manufactured correctly. Remember what Mike Cashtok of the FDA explained above? How properly manufactured plates ensure lead is sealed in the glaze, making them safe? That’s what’s going on here.
But, even well-manufactured plates may wear down over time.
Damaged and worn-out glazes can result in lead leaching. So, these findings mainly apply to vintage dishes in good condition without chips or glaze damage.
Additionally, Corelle only tested back to 1978, a full seven years after the FDA began regulating lead in dishware. Some dishes made between 1970-1977 may still contain lead.
Luckily, Tamara Rubin (Lead Safe Mama) tested Corelle’s earlier 1970s patterns for us. Using an XRF scanner, she analyzed nearly 30 different designs. The result?
Lead Safe Mama found several of Corelle’s vintage dishes contain lead:
Which Corelle Patterns Have Lead in them? Tested Pre-1978 Vintage Corelle Dishes
The plates pictured above were all produced between 1970-1978. Among them, Butterfly Gold has the highest level of lead.
- Butterfly Gold: 1970
- Woodland Brown: 1978
- Spring Blossom Green: 1970
- Snowflake Blue: 1970
- Old Town Blue: 1972
- Meadow: 1977
Though this list of Corelle dishes with lead is accurate, we should note that the XRF scanner only detects the presence of lead… Not if the plate actually leaches lead into food.
So, suppose you have one of these plates made before 1978… In that case, it’s probably best to follow Corelle’s original advice and use them for decoration only.
There are two reasons for this:
- As we mentioned above, if the plate’s glaze is damaged or worn, it can leach lead. This is true regardless of proper dish manufacturing.
- As of today, Corelle hasn’t investigated pre-1978 plates for lead leaching, so their safety is still in question.
So, if you’re ready to ditch your old Corelle for something new, here are our recommendations for the best lead and cadmium-free dishware.
Top Lead and Cadmium-Free Dishware Picks
Yes, we’ve thrown a lot of information at you. But finding safe, lead-free dinnerware isn’t complicated. It comes down to just one simple rule: in general, plain = safe.
Plates with extensive decorations are more likely to contain unsafe chemicals. Plain white plates, however, are usually a safe bet.
Here are our top picks, including a few modern lead and cadmium-free Corelle dishes.
- Number in set: 16
- Size: 10.25” (dinner plates); 8.5” (lunch plates); 18oz (bowls); 10oz (mugs)
- Current Price: $112.16
- Material: Vitrelle glass
This embossed dinnerware set is everything you love about Corelle dishes; they’re dishwasher-safe, lightweight, durable, and resistant to wear. Plus, they’re lead-free.
The Bella Faenza set features a delicate white-on-white embossed pattern that brings a little elegance to your every day.
Included are four dinner plates, four lunch plates, four bowls, and four porcelain mugs… Everything you need to set a full table.
- Number in set: 16
- Size: 10.25” (dinner plates); 6.75” (bread plates); 18oz (bowls); 11oz (mugs)
- Current Price: $80.90
- Material: Vitrelle glass
If you’re looking for a lead-free pattern to spice up your table, Corelle’s “Splendor” design dishware set might be for you.
This set features a simple red and gray pattern with a unique square build. As with all Corelle dishes, these are lightweight, thin, and yet, remarkably durable. They’re also dishwasher safe, making cleanup a breeze.
While they are chip-resistant, these plates come with a 3-year warranty! Clearly, Corelle puts their money where their mouth is regarding durability.
- Number in set: 12
- Size: 10” diameter
- Current Price: ~$40.00
- Material: Glass
Glass is an excellent option for lead-free, non-toxic dishes. And Anchor Hocking crafts some of the safest dishware today, being 100% free of toxic metals and chemicals.
What’s more, these dishes are highly durable. Anchor meticulously crafts its plates from tempered soda-lime glass. This thick, high-impact glass is several times stronger than ordinary soda-lime. Plus, its excellent shock resistance withstands drops and rapid temperature changes without breakage.
In other words, your food stays untainted, and your plate remains unscathed – regardless of heat!
This priceless set includes 12 high-quality dinner plates – each with a 10” width.
- Number in set: 4
- Size: 10.5” diameter
- Current Price: $81.34
- Material: Vitrified ceramic
Fiesta uses high-quality, reinforced vitrified ceramic. What’s vitrified ceramic? It’s a 60% silica/ 40% clay blend, sealed tight by a heat fusion process. This means that, while other ceramic may become damaged by the dishwasher, Fiestaware won’t.
Fiestaware’s plates are also lead-free and resistant to stains, odors, and chips.
Each plate in this 4-pack measures 10.5” wide with slightly curved edges, great for holding sauces. Yet, it’s flat enough to cut steaks with ease.
Also, Fiesta’s lead-free dinner plate set comes with a no-risk five-year chip replacement warranty. Local potters craft this dish right here in the USA!
- Number in set: 16
- Size: 6.75″ (cereal bowl); 9″ (salad plate); 10.5″ (dinner plate); 10oz (mugs)
- Current Price: $160
- Material: Porcelain
This whopping 16-piece set includes dinner plates (10.5″ round), salad plates (9″ round), bowls (6.75″ round), and mugs (10oz) – four of each… Everything you need to entertain guests.
Plus, the clean, simple design will flatter any tablecloth, decor, or flatware – while letting your food stand out!
Sur La Table produces its dinnerware in Turkey from 100% lead and cadmium-free white porcelain. And they don’t bake their ceramic as some lower-quality, second-rate brands do.
Instead, Sur La Table uses much higher temperatures than its competitors. This extra heat ensures a higher quality finish, offering superior strength and chip/ stain resistance.
Key Takeaways: Avoiding Lead in Corelle and All Other Dinnerware
Okay, that was a lot of information all at once. Here are the main takeaways:
- Corelle dishes made after 2005 are all lead-free.
- Corelle tested their dishware made between 1978-2000 and found the plates to be safe for use (*when not damaged).
- *For dishes made before the mid-2000s, don’t use them if chipped, worn out, or damaged.
- For any Corelle made before 1978, it’s a good idea to use them for decoration only.
Finally, if you’re concerned about lead in Corelle or any other vintage dishes, choose from our lead and cadmium-free picks above.
With these options, you can rest easy knowing there’s no lead leaching into your family or guests’ food!
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