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Is it okay to cook food in non-stick cookware? Know what ICMR has advised

ICMR and the National Institute of Nutrition introduced 17 new dietary guidelines for Indians of different ages. They cautioned against non-stick cookware, warning of toxin release at high temperatures.

Written By: Rahul Pratyush @29_pratyush New Delhi Published on: May 21, 2024 9:05 IST
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Image Source : FREEPIK Is it okay to cook food in non-stick cookware? Know what ICMR has advised

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex body for biomedical research in India, has raised concerns about the use of non-stick cookware, particularly pans coated with Teflon. While non-stick pans offer convenience, their safety, especially at high temperatures, has come under scrutiny. The latest guidelines from ICMR emphasise the importance of carefully following usage and cleaning instructions to prevent exposure to toxins. If the Teflon coating on a pan is wearing out, it's a clear sign to discontinue use and dispose of it. 

Health risks of overheating non-stick pans:

Typically, non-stick cookware is coated with Teflon, a synthetic compound comprising carbon and fluorine. While cooking with these pans at regular temperatures is safe, exposing them to high heat can release harmful fumes and toxins, potentially contaminating food with PFAS, microplastics, and nanoplastics. Breathing in these fumes has been associated with a range of health concerns, such as respiratory issues, thyroid irregularities, and even specific forms of cancer.

The guidelines from the ICMR stressed the significance of adopting healthy cooking practices for overall well-being and explored various cooking and pre-cooking techniques. They highlighted the potential risks associated with Non-stick pans coated with Teflon when exposed to temperatures exceeding 170°C, particularly if left empty on a burner for an extended period, could lead to the release of noxious or harmful fumes from the coatings. It was emphasised that strict adherence to usage and cleaning instructions for non-stick cookware is essential, and they should be replaced when the coating shows signs of wear or damage.

ICMR recommendations for safe non-stick cooking:

Here are some tips to ensure safe cooking with non-stick pans:

  • Use low to medium heat: Avoid overheating non-stick cookware, as exceeding the recommended temperature limit can lead to the breakdown of the coating and potentially release harmful fumes.
  • Don't preheat empty pans: Add a little oil or fat before preheating to prevent the pan from reaching excessively high temperatures.
  • Use wooden or silicone utensils: Avoid metal utensils that can scratch the non-stick coating.
  • Replace worn-out pans: If the coating is scratched or peeling, it's time to replace the pan for safety reasons.

Alternatives to non-stick cookware:

While non-stick cookware can be convenient, there are safe and effective alternatives:

  • Stainless Steel: A versatile and durable option, stainless steel offers even heat distribution and can handle high temperatures. However, food tends to stick more easily.
  • Cast Iron: Cast iron provides excellent heat retention and searing capabilities. But like stainless steel, it requires proper seasoning to prevent sticking.
  • Ceramic Cookware: A newer option, ceramic cookware offers a non-stick surface derived from natural materials. Be sure to choose PFOA-free ceramic cookware for added safety.

ALSO READ: Struggling to lose weight? Know how many kilos to shed in a week as per ICMR guidelines

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