Aluminium cooking utensils are safe

Probably. For most consumers the amount of aluminium absorbed into food from cooking utensils is unlikely to be harmful.

In recent years there has been concern about the possible role of aluminium in a number of neurological disorders. Scientists have found increased levels of aluminium in the brain tissues of some patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinsonism dementia. Although hypotheses have been put forward suggesting that aluminium may be an important factor in these disorders, so far, there is insufficient evidence to say that aluminium is a cause.

The amount of aluminium in our diet will depend on its concentration in the foods we select, the amounts of them we eat and their method of preparation. When foods are cooked or stored in aluminium containers some of the aluminium may dissolve and be absorbed into the food.

Acid foods such as fruit and vegetable juices, tomatoes and sauerkraut tend to increase in aluminium content more than other foods, but the extent of this depends on other factors such as cooking temperature, length of contact time and even the amount of sugar present (sugar reduces the amount of aluminium that is dissolved). Generally however, the amount of aluminium consumed in this way is very small compared to that naturally present or that obtained from food additives.

Foods such as some herbs and spices and tea leaves are naturally high in aluminium but because only small quantities are generally consumed the amount of aluminium obtained from these items will not be high. If large amounts of these foods are consumed then the aluminium intake will be more substantial.

Food additives which contain aluminium include the anticaking agents calcium aluminium silicate (anticaking agent 556) and sodium aluminosilicate (anticaking agent 554) and the baking powder ingredient, sodium aluminium phosphate (541). Baking powders can be used in a wide range of products such as self-raising flour, biscuits, cakes and other flour products. When baking powder is used in these products, the sodium aluminium phosphate in the powder does not have to be declared separately on the label. Some forms of synthetic colouring substances may add some aluminium to our diet. The presence of the aluminium in these colours does not have to be declared on food labels.

Overall, the amount of aluminium in food, whether naturally occurring or in the form of food additives, is likely to be low compared to the amounts that can be obtained from consuming pharmaceutical products such as antacids, buffered analgesics and anti-diarrheoals.