Above: Our Beautiful Lead Free Chilean Pomaireware Salsa Bowl with Handle
Why Does Some Latin American Pottery Contain Lead?
Traditionally, many potters around Latin America use inexpensive glazes (known as greta) that contain lead. Not only is lead harmful to consumers, but devastating to the artisan families involved in producing clay items. As most artisans live in their studios, they and their families are constantly exposed to the materials with which they work. Powdery lead based glazes can be inhaled or ingested, and many pottery producing communities suffer with extensive health ailments.
However, these same pottery producing communities rely completely on their craft for income. Many artisans are part of a family that has been producing clayware for generations. Giving up a family trade is not an option.
With the intervention of health organizations worldwide, potters in Latin America are learning about the dangers of their traditional glazing materials, and are switching to lead free glazes. However, traditional lead based glazes continue to be the most economical choice for potters, and some artisan families are reluctant to switch.
Melissa Guerra is pleased to support these pottery producing communities in continuing to sell their improved lead free inventory. Our customers love the quality, and happy that traditional Mexican clayware is stll available in the U.S. market.
How Is Pottery with Lead Imported Into The U.S.?
Rest assured that our FDA here in the U.S. is constantly vigilant regarding lead based glazes and paints. Imported clayware must meet strict guidelines when going through U.S. Customs. Companies attempting to cross lead glazed items are placed on an alert list, and their merchandise is confiscated and destroyed. Only proven lead free clay cookware can be imported into the U.S.
U.S. Customs will not prevent tourists from bringing back 1 or 2 clay pots that contain lead. These items are considered souvenirs, and within the right of the tourist to bring back. But commercial loads of clayware being crossed into the U.S. will be stopped and tested, in order to stop distribution of lead contaminated products to unsuspecting consumers.
If you have inherited your grandmother's bean pot, we encourage you to display it as a keepsake, and retire the item from cooking use. Most older clay pieces do contain lead. Many of these clay items could have been purchased by tourists on vacation in Mexico and Latin America. Although we certainly agree these handmade clay pieces are beautiful, most are not food safe, and should NOT be considered lead free clay.
How Can I Tell If My Pottery Contains Lead?
Lead content cannot be detected by taste, smell or the naked eye. Testing for lead can be achieved with lead tests from your local hardware store. However, other sources we have talked to report that the only accurate test for lead is conducted in a laboratory. If you have doubts regarding the lead content of any clay cookware, your best option is to find different cookware to use.
At Melissa Guerra, we directly import a portion of our clay cookware, and can guarantee that we are in good standing with the FDA. The clayware we sell is lead free.