Cooking With Copper Utensils – It Does A Body Good

Who Knew?

copper cook pans Except for my cast iron fry pans. I have for the past year been replacing all of my cooking utensils with copper or copper clad products. Copper cooking utensils cost little more than stainless or aluminum utensils and are a much better and safer choice.

Copper surfaces, copper alloys such as brass and bronze, are being increasingly proposed for use in healthcare and other public settings due to their ability to rapidly kill bacteria on contact. Ironically it was the advent of commercially available antibiotics in the 1930’s that led to the decline in coppers medical application and since growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics in human medicine has led to the development of a number of difficult to treat infections.

Professor Keevil from the University of Southampton Environmental research said “using fluorescent microscopy found that dry, clean copper surfaces when tested against a bacterial level usually found in hospitals demonstrated a kill time of 2 minute whereas stainless steel surfaces, which have no antimicrobial properties, prolonged bacterial survival for several weeks.

Professor Keevil’s research has shown that replacing common touch surfaces with a copper alloy is cost effective and prevents the transmission of infection while reducing the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Copper is now registered at the US Environmental Protection Agency as the first solid antimicrobial material. The antibacterial efficacy of copper metals won’t wear away but actually increase with wear and tear and cleaning through a process called palination which results in slight discolouration. It is resistant to corrosion, effective even when scratched, and accessible, recyclable so sustainable and cost effective with widespread applications for its use in general public places such as airports, restaurants, kitchens and possibly in drinking vessels in developing countries to reduce infection transmission such as cholera.

Another Opinion Antimicrobial Copper Reduces Rate of Hospital Acquired Infections.

A study, funded by the US Department of defense and presented at the annual conference of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in Boston, has again confirmed the usefulness of copper in microbial control. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center participated in this study, in which a variety of frequently touched hospital objects in intensive care units, such as bed rails, tray tables, call buttons and IV poles, were replaced with copper versions. This change resulted in a greater than 95% reduction in bacteria in ICU rooms and 41 percent reduction in the rate of nosocomial infections for ICU patients.

zachandclem Reminded me that all bacteria is not harmful to humans and in some cases bacteria is even beneficial and needed in the human body.

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17 responses to “Cooking With Copper Utensils – It Does A Body Good

  1. Interesting about copper–it’s been awhile since my science classes. So are aluminum, teflon and stainless steel products equal in quality for cooking purposes? Happy Nesting!

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    • thefolia- This is just my personal opinion. My first choice is cast iron or ceramic covered cast iron. It will stand up to temperatures well above 500+ degrees heat with no ill effects. Copper/copper-clad based cook ware will also tolerate hot fires. Both are natural occurring metals. (bacteria is killed at or above 165 degrees.)
      Aluminum, is a product or refining Bauxite ore and has a (as metal goes) a low melting point. It readily oxides in household air and when heated and your food is in constant contact with aluminum oxide (iron oxide is called rust). All cooking involving acids – foods like tomato’s or anything containing vinegar should ‘Never” be cooked in aluminum pans.
      Stainless steel is a good choice, however you must learn to cook at a lower temperature than cast iron or copper/copper-clad pans.
      Cooking to hot with stainless pans will cause food to stick to your pan. Stainless is best used on natural gas or propane fueled stoves where you have better control of your cooking temperatures.
      In my humble opinion teflon in any of it’s many different formulas should be band from use in the food/cooking markets.
      To make any pan a non-stick pan, preheat your pan before adding your cooking oil. Hot pan + Cold oil = non-stick pan.
      I hope you find this useful.
      Happy Cooking

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  2. I did not know that copper was antimicrobial! Fascinating! I am going to have to switch over. I have cast iron pans and a dutch oven but my pots are all aluminum with Teflon… yuck! They were a gift really, so I have kept them a few years for the sake of that but I’ve had to throw several away and am down to just the sauce pots. Guess I’m going shopping!

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  3. Brilliant news! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  4. I’m greatly amused that people could be unaware of the antibiotic properties of copper. Why do they suppose that antifouling paints for boats contain copper? It’s a heavy metal that is toxic even in trace amounts. Unlike the lead in the solder (about which I think you are right) copper compounds are water soluble so we are able to excrete them instead of suffering a build-up. Something with even stronger antibacterial properties is silver. There’s a REASON surgical equipment and cutlery for the wealthy used to be at least plated with if not solid silver. Silvazine is a burn cream in which the active ingredient is a silver compound. You need a prescription, not because it’s dangerous or gets you high, but because the medical fraternity reserves it for cases that resist standard antibiotics. Widespread use would accelerate bacterial adaptation. The reason silver isn’t more widely used for cutlery and food preparation is simple: it’s expensive, which is exacerbated by high demand for industrial applications.

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    • Re: peterwone – Thanks for taking time to visit my tiny humble blog.
      I make no claim to be anything more than an old country boy, but, unlike some people I can read and comprehend what scientist are telling us about food safety. Most if not all heavy metals, copper and all it’s associated alloyed metals, silver, gold have anti-bacterial properties. Cost is the main limiting factor in their every day use.

      Happy Safe Eating

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  5. Thanks for this post. I didn’t know about the bacterial aspects that you mentioned, but I will say I remember drinking from a copper cup when I was in college and someone was doing a sales pitch for some product, and it was the best water I ever drank.

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  6. Why are you worried about bacteria on something that you’re going to heat to 400+ degrees? Also, there’s about as much evidence for this as there is for the idea that a lot of our immune issues today being caused by antibacterial cleansers keeping our immune systems from developing fully.

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    • Re: synovia18 – You are correct, bacteria is killed at temperatures above 165 degrees. The problem is when foods temperature drops below 160 degrees it is easily recontaminated by harmful bacteria. This often comes from food serving and storage containers and or serving utensils.

      Nothing is better than good hygiene procedures, washing hands, counter tops, cutting boards often, washing all cooking and serving containers and utensils in hot soap water before use.

      Using copper cook wear and serving utensils or do not use them. That is a personal decision only you can make.
      See also Wikipeda: Antimicrobial applications

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      • Exposure to some bacteria is VITAL for your immune system. I’m a nurse, I know everything about hygiene. Be CAREFUL about creating an idea in which all bacteria are BAD and should be avoided, this is simply a lie.

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        • re: zachandclem – I agree with you ‘All’ Bacteria is not harmful to humans.
          Grin … Perhaps I should have prefixed all my references to bacteria with ‘harmful’
          Thanks for visiting my tiny blog

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          • Harmful bacteria won’t just pop up in your every day kitchen though, relax 🙂 If your kitchen is a normal, clean environment, that’s more than enough to be able to cook with any kind of pot you like 😀 xx

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  7. The copper may kill bacteria but what about the presence of copper in our bodies over prolonged exposure? It can have very bad side effects.

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    • Hot and cold copper water piping has been used in homes and commercial construction for more than 80 years with few if any confirmed copper problems. In copper piping the most common problem was when plumbers used lead based solder to join pipes and connections.
      All …well… most all cooking utensils are called copper clad. That’s where the base metal is copper and the cooking metal in contact with the food is another type of metal. Foods are generally cooked to a temperature above 160-165 degrees which kills all bacteria. Copper leaching is most common when cooking ‘High’ acid foods like tomato’s or or heating vinegar based pickling spices used in home canning in non-clad copper pots.

      Happy Cooking.

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      • That’s right! I had forgotten about the copper pipes. What made me think of the toxic effects of copper is a fellow I knew who was a roofer someplace in Scandinavia. He worked with copper roofing a lot and later in life had terrific headaches that were attributed to his work. (Just so you know where this thought of mine came from.) I have a copper bottomed pot that’s over 40 years old and I love it, but the inside is stainless steel.

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