In this guide, you’ll discover the (6) safest dishes to use at mealtime (and more).
Now, maybe you know that dishes can ooze toxins into your food. But do you know why or how to tell?
Lead and cadmium hide in the glaze of brightly colored, decorated dinnerware.
That’s why you should ALWAYS choose lead and cadmium-free dinnerware sets. Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You hop online, only to have a million various plates – ceramic, glass, porcelain, bone china, melamine plastic, etc. – thrown at your face.
And the thing is, some of those dishes are fine for decoration, but not for eating… How can you tell?
Well, this post shows you how to make that judgment; this way, you keep your family safe.
Side note: dinnerware isn’t the only risk. Cookware can also leach lead or toxic metals into your food, but we covered pots and pans in another post.
On this page, we’re focusing on non-toxic, lead-free dinnerware brands alone – none of which are made in China.
In a hurry? Tap any section on the list below to jump ahead.
Let’s get started.
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Why and how toxic dinnerware exists…
The two primary culprits of toxic dinnerware – lead and cadmium.
Lead helps improve durability and seal plate glazes and decorations. It also helps make colored glazes bright and shiny.
Cadmium adds bright colors to dishes, such as yellow and orange.
For example, Mexican Terra Cotta, vintage China, and other hand-crafted/ painted dishes.
Also, sometimes you’ll detect lead in glass dishes. Lead crystal, for example, contains up to 24% lead – avoid that stuff.
Not only that, but even plain white dishware may carry lead or cadmium in its glaze. Lead increases durability and helps fuse the porous clay shut – necessary for ceramic to hold food or liquid.
The FDA states: When manufacturers properly bake ceramic, the lead shouldn’t leach out. When improperly baked, however, lead may contaminate food.
That’s why it’s vital to know which brands are safe. We’ll get to that later.
While lead affects people of any age, it’s especially hazardous to children, pregnant women, and unborn babies.
In fact, “children can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” according to the World Health Organization.
Even spookier, lead accumulates in your body, so small amounts can pose a health hazard over time.
Now, touching lead isn’t the issue so much as swallowing or inhaling it. As long as you wash your hands after setting up decorative dishes, you’re in good shape.
But never eat off of those old, brightly-colored dishes.
However, I’m not saying every colorful plate leaches lead, but some have a greater chance. You’ll discover how to tell if your dish leaks lead shortly.
Keep in mind; lead doesn’t just hop into your food. Lead leaches during a few key situations:
First – serving hot food on the plate. The heat extracts chemicals right out into food.
Second – microwaving. The heat can leach lead into your meal.
Third – serving acidic foods on the plate. Acids fast-forward toxic leaching. Which acidic foods?
Soy sauce, citrus fruit, tomatoes/ pasta sauce, lemon chicken, sauerkraut, and vinegar-containing salad dressing, to name a few.
The bottom line: If you have kids running around the house or you’re pregnant/ planning on it, do a safety and risk assessment of your dinnerware.
How to tell if your dishes have lead
As I touched on above, it’s tricky to tell which dinnerware leaches lead just by sight.
But several dishes have a higher chance of bearing lead than others. Here’s what to look for:
- Traditional glazed Terra Cotta (clay) dishware made in Latin American countries and the southwest, such as Mexican bean pots.
- Homemade and hand-crafted tableware, unless you’re sure the creator uses lead-free glaze.
- Highly decorated traditional dishes used in some Asian communities.
- Decorations on top of the glaze, instead of underneath. For example, if you can feel the raised decoration when you rub your finger over the dish. Or, if you notice brushstrokes above the glazed surface, the decoration likely sits on top of the glaze. If the decoration has begun to wear away, the lead hazard increases.
- Antique tableware handed down in families or found in antique stores or garage sales (especially from pre-1970 – before the FDA began regulating dishware).
- If you notice a corroded glaze or a dusty, chalky grey residue on the glaze after you wash a piece. Tableware in this condition represents a severe lead hazard – stop using it at once.
- Bright orange, red, or yellow: Lead helps to boost these colors’ intensity.
Also, stay wary of plastic dinnerware sets due to the hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastic.
This statement carries 10x the weight if you have small children.
Chemicals and materials in plastic dishes include Phthalates and BPA, which mimic estrogen in the human body.
In fact, there’s a name for this – EA chemicals (short for “Estrogenic Activity”).
Mimicked estrogen can lead to health issues like negative effects on the heart, brain, and child development.
Something else to look out for… Melamine dinnerware. You might have heard about it and its popularity. But is melamine safe?
Is melamine safe?
Melamine makes for strong, hard plastic dinnerware, but it has some issues. Manufacturers use formaldehyde – a controversial substance – to craft melamine dishes. Now, the FDA has ruled melamine safe to use, but with some restrictions…
You should not microwave food on melamine plastic, especially acidic ingredients – for example, heating pasta with red sauce.
Heat can pull these chemicals into your food.
Plus, old and worn-out melamine plastic leaches much easier.
Considering all the safer options, it’s wise to stay away from plastic and melamine. They’re quite the opposite of the safest dishes to use for health.
Now let’s tackle a couple of common questions about dinnerware’s toxicity.
Are dishes made in China safe to use?
Dishware made in China receives a lot of skepticism – and it’s no shocker… Through the years, China-made products have suffered a reputation for being low-quality or unsafe. Here’s one reason – in China, manufacturing practices do not fall under the same strict regulations they do in the US. That begs the question: Are dishes made in China safe to use?
Sometimes no, sometimes yes. Here’s the deal…
Many low-quality products come from China. But, many high-quality products too.
You want to stay vigilant and choose only lead-free dinnerware brands.
Here’s the key – trust the company you buy from and make sure they’re transparent about any lead or cadmium in their dinnerware.
How? Always check that the manufacturer has done proper safety testing on their products.
Look for the testing documentation (often displayed on the product’s web page).
You can also check for labeling on the plate’s bottom (either in-store or through online images):
If a plate leaches more than three parts per million (the FDA’s legal limit), you “should” see a label with one of the following phrases:
- “For Decorative Purposes Only”
- “Not for Food Use”
- “May Poison Food”
- “Glaze Contains Lead”
- “Food Use May Result in Lead Poisoning”
- “Not for Food Use – Food Consumed from this Vessel May be Harmful”
I wrote “should” because some non-regulated plates from shoddy factories slip through the cracks.
You can also scan for California’s (even stricter) Proposition 65 label. Prop 65 has a leachable lead limit of 0.226 parts per million.
Here’s what it looks like:
To sum it up, use your discretion based on the information above when ordering China-made.
Or, forget all that and let me do the heavy lifting. Browse the researched recommendations down below!
Is there lead in vintage dishes?
Another common question out there: Is there lead in vintage dishes?
Many of us have old ceramic dishes and vintage dinnerware lying around. We got it from our grandparents, antique stores, garage sales; you name it.
While beautiful, an essential thing to remember is that the FDA began testing dinnerware for safety starting in 1970.
So, China and other colorful dishware made before 1970 are likely to contain high lead levels, so avoid using antique China in general.
Save it for decoration.
How about lead in vintage Corelle dishes. Is Corelle safe?
Corelle is a very popular brand of dinnerware due to its unique glass lamination process.
Corelle uses Vitrelle, a tempered glass product consisting of two types of glass laminated into three layers.
Vitrelle makes the product highly durable, but is Corelle non-toxic?
Corelle makes its products and glazes from clay-based materials and glazes used throughout the industry.
Any decorations present contain low-lead enamels fired at over 1000°F. This heat binds the heavy metals, reducing their release.
As you saw above, the leachable lead’s current limit for dishes sits around three parts per million (or less). A tiny amount. To put this in perspective, that’s (at most) three small drops of water from an eyedropper in a 10-gallon drum.
Corelle claims never to have exceeded this amount, so while not necessarily lead-free, these are considered lead-safe.
But, Corelle products bought before 2005 may not follow current FDA regulations. So, avoid eating from older, pre-2005 Corelle dinnerware (especially if there’s worn-out, chipped glaze).
Once again, here’s the common theme… Avoid highly decorated dinnerware, especially older plates.
In the next section, you’ll finally uncover the safest dishes to use.
The lead and cadmium-free dinnerware sets below rank as some of the highest quality online.
In other words, you can enjoy total peace of mind.
Let’s jump in!
Top six safest dinnerware brands to use at home (not made in China)
Now that you know how and why toxins end up in dinnerware – let’s dig into the article’s meat.
Below you’ll find six prime examples of the safest dinnerware to use at home.
You’ll notice something about the non-toxic dinnerware below. A crucial factor to keep in mind…
When choosing the safest plates to use, you want non-toxic dinnerware that’s simple in terms.
Remember earlier you saw how bright-pigment plates often contain lead and cadmium? Well, that’s why the following dishware has little color or decoration.
But plain doesn’t mean dull or unattractive.
Plain means sleek, modern, and SAFE! As I always say, let your food steal the show, not your plate.
Also, the below non-toxic dinnerware is not made in China. Plus, free of lead, cadmium, BPA, Melamine, and any other toxin!
In fact, after countless hours of research, I discovered these are some of the safest dishes to use PERIOD!
Need a set of easy-cleaning, eye-catching glass dinner plates? Give Anchor Hocking’s non-toxic dishes a shot.
Anchor meticulously crafts their plates from tempered soda-lime glass. Formed from sand, soda ash, and limestone, then polished smooth as ice with no uneven edges.
This thick, high-impact glass has several times the strength of ordinary glass. Plus, excellent shock resistance to stand up to drops or rapid temperature changes.
Anchor makes some of the safest dishes to use because they’re free of toxic metals and chemicals.
In other words, your food stays untainted – regardless of heat!
Are you worried about matching your home decor? This plate goes together like PB&J with any meal or dining room layout.
This priceless set includes 12 high-quality dinner plates – each with a 10” inch width.
Anchor Hocking’s safe dinnerware (made in the USA since 1905) gives you the satisfaction of buying domestic!
You can use the microwave, freezer, and dishwasher to free up time after dinner without worry.
Are Anchor Hocking’s 10” plates sold out?
The next non-toxic dinnerware set – Fiestaware’s vitrified ceramic plates!
Fiesta’s white dinnerware set complements any other tableware you own – without seeming out of place.
Plus, 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.
The result? A glass-like, shiny, and impervious surface. Here’s why that’s important…
Second to breakage, dishwashers destroy ceramic dinnerware more than anything else.
Yet, Fiestaware’s watertight surface remains unaffected by hot dishwasher cycles. So, with cost-efficient vitrified ceramic plates, you stretch your investment longer.
Plus, this dinnerware resists stains and odors, doesn’t chip, and doesn’t scuff from silverware. Simply put, it always looks brand new!
Chuck your Fiestaware plates in the fridge or freezer, then toss them into the microwave or oven to reheat without exploding.
Afterward, slip in the dishwasher to save cleanup time.
Each plate in this 4-pack measures 10.5” wide and has a slight curve, great for holding sauces, yet 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!
Next up, check out Libbey Crisa Moderno’s safe dinner plates, also crafted from soda-lime glass.
Libbey crafts their dinnerware using a state-of-the-art production process (and has for nearly 200 years).
Now, I won’t bore you with the process details, but here’s the result…
You get some of the most robust soda lime glassware available. A flawless, smooth surface that’s free of uneven bubbles.
When you have company, you’ll take pride in handing out Libbey’s solid plates.
Once again, clear glass goes together like spaghetti and meatballs with any dining room color.
You can heat food with Libbey’s non-toxic dinner plates in the microwave, then chuck your dish in the dishwasher – they’ll come out crystal clear. Also freezer-safe.
Overall, Libbey’s trusted glass dinner plates will serve you faithfully for years. And, of course, no lead or other toxins!
Last, Libbey glassware proudly crafts this 12-pack of 10.5” wide dinnerware in the USA and Mexico!
Alright, number four – a gorgeous non-toxic dinnerware set from Sur La Table!
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 flatters any tablecloth, decor, or flatware – while letting your food stand out!
Sur La Table produces their dinnerware in Turkey from high-quality, 100% lead and cadmium-free white porcelain.
They don’t bake their ceramic as some other second-rate brands do.
Instead, Sur La Table uses much higher temperatures than competitors. The extra heat builds superior strength and chip/ stain resistance.
Each versatile, heat-resistant plate handles the oven up to 392°F, the “nuker,” and the freezer.
For cleanup, toss in the dishwasher, and your piece comes out sparkling like new without ugly streaks.
The fifth non-toxic dinnerware option to reveal comes from Duralex – another high-ranking brand.
Like Libbey and Anchor Hocking, Duralex makes clear, tempered soda-lime glass dinnerware.
These rugged lead and cadmium-free dinner plates can withstand 2.5x more abuse than standard glass.
Speaking of tough, Duralex chuckles at temperature extremes.
In fact, these non-toxic plates withstand -4°F to 266°F without exploding like a hand grenade.
Quality soda-lime glass dinner plates are certainly some of the safest dishes to use out there. Plus, you can recycle the glass at the end of its life and feel good about your sustainability.
You can toss this non-toxic dinnerware set in the microwave to heat…
Fling in the freezer for food storage…
And finally, clean up in the dishwasher to save the hassle of scrubbing.
Duralex precision-crafts this 4-pack of 9.25” plates in France – and has since 1939!
The final non-toxic dinnerware set looks much different than the previous five.
Rather than glass or ceramic, HaWare crafts 304-grade stainless steel dinner plates!
Non-breakable dishes offer a massive advantage over the previous dinnerware sets – a far longer lifespan.
Stainless steel plates will never shatter if dropped. Not even if thrown at a brick wall! (Not that you should hurl your dinnerware across the room, though).
If you have small kids at home and want to avoid broken glass, ceramic shards, or dangerous plastic – these fit the bill. You can even use steel plates to feed your dog or cat!
Not just one of the safest dishes to use, but steel plates make the perfect travel partner for camping and the outdoors!
Food-grade stainless steel does not rust or break down, leaching metals into your food. It’s by far the best steel for dinnerware.
Besides, stainless contains only iron, nickel, and chromium – none of which cause harm in small amounts anyway (unless you’re allergic).
As for drawbacks, you can’t microwave steel dinnerware. So you’ll have to heat the food separately, then slide it onto these non-toxic dinner plates.
For care, steel handles the dishwasher like a champ. Also, freezer and oven-safe (but the plate gets hot, so take caution).
Unlike most China-made metal plates, HaWare proudly crafts its stainless steel dinnerware in South Korea!
Phew, you made it! Let’s recap, shall we?
First, you saw how and why toxic chemicals/ metals end up in dinnerware.
Then, you discovered the critical dinnerware concerns. And finally, you uncovered the six best and safest dinnerware sets.
To wrap this post up, follow these simple guidelines to help you stay safe:
- Do not heat food or drink in ceramic that may contain lead – cooking or microwaving speeds up the lead-leaching process.
- Do not store food or drink in dishes that may contain lead. The longer food/drink stays in contact with a lead-leaching surface; the more lead gets absorbed.
- Do not put acidic foods on leaded plates. These foods will suck lead out of dishes much faster than non-acidic foods. Common examples include citrus fruits, tomatoes/ pasta sauce, soy sauce, and salad dressing.
- Avoid the dishwasher because it will damage the glazed surface. Damaged glazes have a higher chance of leaching lead the next time you use that dish. In some cases, lead also contaminates other plates in the dishwasher.
- The best tip? Avoid toxic metals and chemicals in your dinnerware altogether – grab one of the non-toxic plates above!
P.S. After grabbing your non-toxic dinner plates, pair them with plastic-free utensils!
Why? Consider this: Grabbing lead and cadmium-free dinnerware sets get you started, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg…
So, below you’ll find related posts where we cover storage containers, cookware, utensils, and more!
Don’t stop with the safest dishes to use at home – instead, continue your journey!
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Non-Toxic Kitchenware Checklist
Get a step-by-step product guide with insider tips & tricks for the safest kitchen possible!