Rusty kitchen implements?
April 4, 2017 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I just noticed that my cheap, low-quality cheese grater is rusting quickly. Are there any health risks to using rusting (and probably flaking) kitchen implements, or is it smarter to just replace it as a precaution?
posted by Dip Flash to Food & Drink (16 answers total)
'Stainless steel' does not equal 'stain-free steel', so rust is definitely a thing that can happen. However, rust is an excellent source of additional dietary iron. It's fine. You're fine. It's ok. Good for your blood. Keeps the anemia away.
posted by sexyrobot at 5:25 PM on April 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Beyond maybe being harder to clean and kind of gross-looking, should be harmless.
posted by Drosera at 5:40 PM on April 4, 2017

The primary risk is if it gets really rusty and a small piece flakes off into your food. Otherwise, chemically speaking, you're totally fine.
posted by julthumbscrew at 5:51 PM on April 4, 2017

The only rust-prone cheese graters I've ever seen were more than 50 years old and plated with tin rather than chromium (tin has a whitish/yellowish overtone; chrome plating looks bluish).

Tin itself is pretty harmless (toxic ~2 grams), but some organotin compounds are pretty bad.

I'd get a new one.
posted by jamjam at 6:28 PM on April 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, every known bacterial pathogen needs iron to grow (except Lyme, which uses manganese), so I suppose you could have something nasty growing on the grater between uses, especially if you grate fresh vegetables.
posted by jamjam at 6:36 PM on April 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of the stories I grew up hearing a million times was about how my grandmother used to pierce an apple with a rusty nail, take the nail out (obviously), and then give the apple to her kids as a source of extra iron (knowing my family, this was probably something Adelle Davis recommended). As you may imagine, I grew up with a number of rusty kitchen implements.

I say, if it's just the corners that are rusty, it's probably not a big deal, but if the whole thing is getting rusty, then it's probably not worth hanging on to. Yes, rust from iron is safe to eat, and it is indeed a source of dietary iron. But... just thinking about it now, talking about the dietary benefits of rust as a source of iron feels like kind of a stretch to get out of buying a new cheese grater. I'm pretty sure this is why I heard the nail story so many times as a kid.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:51 PM on April 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Just buy one of these and toss the old one.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:22 PM on April 4, 2017

That's a great grater, computech_apolloniajames, but only really good in my opinion for grating really hard cheeses like Parmesan. I like this grater set for medium-hard (?) cheeses like cheddar.
posted by Night_owl at 8:53 PM on April 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rust by itself is absolutely no concern in small amounts in food. Creating a porous and hard to sterilize environment for microbes may be more concerning.

I eat plenty of rust each year, but I would probably replace this grater sooner than later, under a year.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:56 PM on April 4, 2017

Now is your chance to buy this! It comes with a little measuring box with a lid!
posted by oceanjesse at 9:55 PM on April 4, 2017

Seriously what is the point of a box grater? I only ever used one side.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:58 AM on April 5, 2017

I'm off the opinion that we should get our nutrients from actual food sources, rather than sources that are not truly food. Even if we "need iron", our bodies cannot digest that which is not truly food, so the body has to treat it as a foreign substance, which creates inflammation in the body while it tries to eliminate the foreign substance. This is not an ideal, healthy condition for the body.

I mean, I'm sure your body is healthy enough to deal with these small pieces of rust (and god knows what else is in those flakes), but why cause any unnecessary stress on your system? Just get a new grater already.
posted by vignettist at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2017

Life is too short for cheap tools. Buy yourself a nice cheese grater and enjoy it. Even a fancy rotary cheese grater is only $20.
posted by gyusan at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

> Are there any health risks to using rusting (and probably flaking) kitchen implements

Nah, think about cast iron pans that haven't been properly looked after.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:28 PM on April 5, 2017

Rust is Fe(III) - your body (digestive system) essentially ignores it unless they're great big flakes that might cause physical damage. Small particles are essentially benign.

Dietary iron is soluble Fe(II) and most people are able to regulate excess amounts.
posted by porpoise at 1:05 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm on the fence about which answers to select as "best," since I agree that it is probably safe, but even so I just ordered a fancy new rotary grater since this one was poorly designed, is bent, and is rusting.

Thank you all.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:39 PM on April 5, 2017

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