Are porcelain dishes safe to eat off of? 

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Are porcelain dishes safe to eat off of?” and provide information on the lead present in porcelain dishes as well as tips to use porcelain dishes.

Are porcelain dishes safe to eat off of?

Yes, porcelain dishes are safe to eat off of. Certain porcelain dishes might contain high amounts of lead which can be harmful to use.

FDA started testing for lead content in plates by 1970. If your porcelain dishes were made before 1970, it would be better to avoid consuming food from them.

Certain porcelain dishes also have gold or silver decorations which could be prepared using lead and cadmium, both of which are toxic. Also, steer clear of porcelain dishes that contain glitters.

If your porcelain dishes are made without lead or contain very little amounts of lead, they can be safe to use. Porcelain is heat stable and there is no leeching involved.

When porcelain dishes are prepared with lead, there would be leaching of chemicals observed often when foods with high temperatures are placed onto these plates. Porcelain can also be enameled with lead or cadmium which can also pose a health risk.

What tips need to be followed to use porcelain?

  • You can use porcelain dishes once in a while but avoid using them daily. Avoid placing hot foods or microwaving porcelain dishes as there is a possibility of lead leaching onto these dishes.

Also, avoid placing acidic foods on porcelain dishes you suspect have lead in them. Acidic foods can accelerate lead leaching.

  • Select the vitrified porcelain varieties, if you wish to use them daily. The commercialized glaze is used for preparing vitrified porcelain which does not contain toxins.
  • You can buy a lead test kit for checking the levels of lead at home.
  • You can use porcelain dishes as a display material and move to much safer varieties.
  • Buy and use only plain white porcelain dishes. Avoid using the ones that are extremely colorful or decorative. You can use the decorative ones as showpieces in your house.
  • Buy porcelain dishes only from reputed brands or shops that you trust.
  • Check whether the porcelain dish has been labeled at the bottom of the dish. Labels that mention, “for decorative use only”, “Not for food use”, or “Glaze contains lead” can be found on the dishes that undergo regulation. 
  • Avoid storing food in your porcelain dishes if you suspect them to contain lead.

Is there lead present in porcelain dishes?

Certain varieties of porcelain dishes contain high levels of cadmium and lead. Manufacturers still use these toxins to prepare our dishes within the permissible limits set by FDA. 

The lead-based glaze is used in certain porcelain dishes to provide a smooth and shiny appearance to the dishes.

It is important to remember though that lead can accumulate in our body over the years which can cause health problems later.

Lead in dishes should be around 90 ppm or below it. Lead poisoning could be observed if excess levels of lead are found in the body.

Dishes that are likely to contain lead are given below:

  • Asian dishes which are extremely decorative
  • Antique dinnerware passed down through families
  • Traditional dishes made from terracotta and sourced from Latin America
  • Dishes that leave out a chalky grey residue after washing

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning can be harmful especially to children exposed to lead. Lead can affect children younger than six years adversely.

Children exposed to excessive amounts of lead can have impaired growth and developmental delays. 

Pregnant women exposed to heavy lead can give birth to premature babies. Infants exposed to lead can also have low birth weight and reduced growth.

Elderly individuals exposed to lead can suffer from pica, fatigue, lethargy, reduced appetite, seizures, and vomiting.

Remember that touching lead-based dishes would not be a problem. Inhaling lead or consuming food from plates containing lead is a problem.

Why is cadmium used in porcelain dishes and what are its effects?

Cadmium glaze is used in many brightly colored dishes to lend attractiveness to the dishes.

The side effects of excessive exposure to cadmium are provided below:

  • Increased risk of developing kidney problems
  • Lung failure
  • Brittle bones prone to fracture
  • Increased risk of cancer

What alternative dishes can you use?

  • Stainless steel dishes
  • Enamel dishes
  • Bamboo dishes
  • Ceramic dishes


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “Are porcelain dishes safe to eat off of?” and provide information on the lead present in porcelain dishes as well as tips to use porcelain dishes.


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