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I've been wondering about this for a while, since getting interested in knife sharpening.

When using a knife, it will get duller. One (the primary) reason being that you "bend" the edge. You fix this using a honing steel.

After a while though, you need to sharpen the knife again. Another setting: If you have a brittle knife and/or mistreat your knife you will chip it.

As far as I can tell, this should mean that small pieces of metal (dust, shavings, etc.) come lose, and then likely get in the food.

Is this correct? Are there no health considerations when digesting small pieces of very sharp metal?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

At a microscopic level metal is malleable, and so the edge tends to bend rather than spall or break off. Still, it is probably technically true to a certain extent, and based on many many years of metal knife usage by millions or billions of people through history, completely irrelevant. Whatever effect it may have is vanishingly small.

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I had an Uncle Bob once. He passed away from metal shavings from sharpening his knife. One of those statements may be false... –  rfusca Feb 26 at 19:16
    
@Chuu: We ask that people only post such claims if they are well-substantiated and reflect a legitimate scientific consensus. I know that you're trying to be helpful, but the vast amount of pseudoscience and outright nonsense floating around is the reason why we have such specific guidelines for food safety questions (and answers). You might consider posting that as a question on Skeptics, that is if you can find a source to justify it as a "notable" claim. –  Aaronut Feb 27 at 1:37
    
That's basically what I thought - we should have seen some bad effects if it was dangerous at all. What got me thinking was connections to, say, asbestos, and that perhaps I should be even more meticulous with cleaning after honing or sharpening. –  NiklasJ Feb 27 at 12:06
    
@NiklasJ we don't discuss health effects on that scale, as these are very hard to prove or disprove and raise much disagreement even among specialists. All we handle is food safety in the sense "if you eat X, is there a non-neglible chance that you end up in hospital tomorrow". If you want to know if there are long-term health effects, you are in the wrong place. –  rumtscho Feb 27 at 15:16

Sure, microscopic bits of metal go into your food when you use knives. It's just a bit more iron in your diet. When you consider that the average person eats 100mg of dirt per day the nanograms of metal you eat per year is pretty insignificant.

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Microscopic metal particles won't hurt you. The iron in fortified breakfast cereal is just food-grade iron particles. You can collect them with a magnet.

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I just tried this and with a reasonably large rare earth magnet I was able to move a whole Nutri-Grain a small amount. –  PeterJ Feb 27 at 0:07

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