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How safe are iron and carbonsteel pans? Or can they be misused making them unsafe?

For instance, have food safety authorities already reviewed this? Is there a regulation or at least a published opinion from an official body? For example, something like this opinion the European Food Safety Authority has published on PTFE (like Teflon) and PTFE coated cooking ware.


In order to have iron pans and carbonsteel to be non-stick one creates a patina layer on them by seasoning it. That is, burning fats and oils in thin layers onto the surface of the pan, creating a black layer of pyrolised and oxydized hydrocarbons (and probably all sorts of chemicals). (And it also changes the metal structure of the surface)

pan with patina

How is it with this 'burnt' patina layer? Is that layer safe? Or is it typically safe, but can it be unsafe when not properly done?


The specific section in the EFSA article is "3.1.3.1. Migration from food contact materials, including non-stick coatings used on cookware"

The article is EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM), et al. "Risk to human health related to the presence of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid in food." EFSA journal 16.12 (2018): e05194.

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    The close reason is not spot on. This is not a question about nutrition or medical advice. It is a question about food safety. Oct 24 at 18:44
  • A very shorthand way of determine if it is a safety or a health question: if you are asking about the danger of landing in hospital within 2-3 days of eating, and the hospital could potentially trace your condition back to the portion of food that caused it, that's food safety. It usually applies to things like getting an e.coli infection from improperly stored food, but could also include things like "I ate lead paint". Agencies like the USDA publish exact guidelines to determine the difference between "safe" and "not safe" and we can tell you what they include. But if you are asking...
    – rumtscho
    Oct 24 at 19:42
  • ... about possibly getting some kind of long-term health problem down the road, as in "did studies show that this might eventually be connected to more cancer", then we consider it a health question and it is a major closing reason for us. As far as I can tell, you are asking the second type of question. But if it is the first, you can reword so it is clear that you are asking if the USDA has issued a warning that cast iron pans are not considered food-safe and has forbidden their use.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 24 at 19:43
  • @rumtscho I would strongly disagree that food safety is just microbial safety, physical safety, acute toxicity or things that get you directly in the hospital within 2 to 3 days after consuming the unsafe food. But fair enough, I would accept if food safety issues like chronic toxicity, carcinogeneity, mutagenicity (which are risks associated with foods and not about nutrition or good health) are considered a part of food safety that is off-topic. Oct 24 at 20:24
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    @SextusEmpiricus and they are off-topic. This community has decided that we will not venture into that area, for various reasons.
    – Stephie
    Oct 24 at 21:10

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