Nylon is used to construct kitchen utensils such as spatulas, whisks and slotted spoons in multiple colors and configurations, sometimes sold in sets. If you own or plan to purchase any of these utensils, you should be aware that some of these nylon cooking utensils may have hidden dangers, especially if they melt.
Diaminodiphenylmethane, also known as DDM or methylenedianiline, is a chemical sometimes used as an epoxy hardener. Traces of this chemical are used in some nylon kitchen utensils, particularly black nylon kitchen utensils. While casual exposure to this chemical bears little, if any risk, the presence of the chemical in plastics used for food preparation raises some concerns. Most nylon utensils found to contain DDM have been manufactured in China.
A certain form of DDM is listed as carcinogenic by the CDC. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have studied the issue for several years, and determined that exposure to DDM caused tumors in rats, as well as cirrhosis and liver tumors. More recently, after a recall of several kitchen utensils for increased levels of DDM, the European Union has spoken out against the use of chemicals like DDM in food preparation tools, due to the potential cancer risk. The risk remains small, as the rats in the CDC study received very large direct doses, but the risk does exist.
Not all nylon cooking utensils have the same level of heat resistance. If you purchase a utensil with low heat resistance, the plastic may melt and contaminate your foods. When purchasing nylon utensils, always look for the heat rating on the package. Your utensils should have the ability to withstand at least 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If you cannot find a heat rating on the package, the nylon utensil is probably not tempered, which indicates a low heat resistance. Never use melted nylon utensils.
Unlike stainless steel utensils, nylon utensils crack easily. When this happens, food particles can become trapped within the tiny crevices and remain there even as you diligently clean the utensil. After those food particles rot, they may contaminate other fresh foods as you unsuspectingly use the utensil in future cooking projects. If you notice cracks in any of your nylon utensils, discard them at once.
- Food Safety Authority of Ireland: Withdrawal of Black Nylon Kitchen Utensils Due to Migration of Primary Aromatic Amines
- Seatlle PI: Cooking Utensil Alert
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 4,4-Diaminodiphenylmethane (DDM)
- University of Nebraska Lincoln: Kitchen Food Safety: Bags, Bottles & Beyond
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 4,4'-Methylenedianiline )
Chris Anzalone has been writing professionally since 2001. He is a former staff writer and associate editor for Opposing Views, a popular news media website that tackles issues of the day from multiple perspectives. Anzalone holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California at Riverside.