Stainless steel leaches nickel and chromium into foods during cooking

J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Oct 2;61(39):9495-501. doi: 10.1021/jf402400v. Epub 2013 Sep 19.


Toxicological studies show that oral doses of nickel and chromium can cause cutaneous adverse reactions such as dermatitis. Additional dietary sources, such as leaching from stainless steel cookware during food preparation, are not well characterized. This study examined stainless steel grades, cooking time, repetitive cooking cycles, and multiple types of tomato sauces for their effects on nickel and chromium leaching. Trials included three types of stainless steels and a stainless steel saucepan, cooking times of 2-20 h, 10 consecutive cooking cycles, and four commercial tomato sauces. After a simulated cooking process, samples were analyzed by ICP-MS for Ni and Cr. After 6 h of cooking, Ni and Cr concentrations in tomato sauce increased up to 26- and 7-fold, respectively, depending on the grade of stainless steel. Longer cooking durations resulted in additional increases in metal leaching, where Ni concentrations increased 34-fold and Cr increased approximately 35-fold from sauces cooked without stainless steel. Cooking with new stainless steel resulted in the largest increases. Metal leaching decreases with sequential cooking cycles and stabilized after the sixth cooking cycle, although significant metal contributions to foods were still observed. The tenth cooking cycle resulted in an average of 88 μg of Ni and 86 μg of Cr leached per 126 g serving of tomato sauce. Stainless steel cookware can be an overlooked source of nickel and chromium, where the contribution is dependent on stainless steel grade, cooking time, and cookware usage.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromium / analysis
  • Chromium / chemistry*
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • Cooking and Eating Utensils*
  • Cooking*
  • Food Contamination*
  • Food, Preserved / analysis
  • Food, Preserved / economics
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Fruit / economics
  • Nickel / analysis
  • Nickel / chemistry*
  • Solanum lycopersicum / chemistry
  • Solanum lycopersicum / economics
  • Solubility
  • Stainless Steel / adverse effects
  • Stainless Steel / chemistry*


  • Chromium
  • Stainless Steel
  • Nickel