Does Non-Stick Make You Sick?

There is a reason they called the first non-stick pans the “Happy Pan” in the 1960s. The coating on non-stick cookware, commonly called Teflon, means you don’t have to worry about food sticking to the surface of your pan; making flipping those eggs and pancakes that much easier. They’re also super easy to wash and are a healthy way to cook as you can cut down on the use of cooking oils. It’s no wonder non-stick cookware can be readily found in kitchens all over the world. While non-stick omelette maker pans are still widely available and extremely popular, people have become unsure about just how safe the non-stick coating is. It’s not uncommon to see warnings in popular media advising consumers against the use of Teflon amid claims it may increase your risk of cancer.

The Cancer Question

Firstly we want to assure readers that there is no evidence that the use of non-stick cookware will give you cancer or cause any other long term ill effects. The basis of this myth comes in the form of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), one of the ingredients used to make Teflon (or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) as it is known in the world of science, Teflon is actually a brand name).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies PFOA as a group 2B carcinogen, meaning there is some evidence to suggest it may cause cancer in humans. The reality is that only those who are exposed to high levels of PFOA need to be concerned by these findings. People who work at manufacturing plants using PFOA and those living in residential areas near such plants are at the greatest risk of harmful exposure. When it comes to non-stick cookware, high heat during the manufacturing process means that most of the PFOA is burned out, leaving the final product containing an insignificant amount. Non-stick cookware is therefore not considered a source of exposure to PFOA and many manufacturers such as DuPont (the original Teflon maker) no longer use PFOA to make non-stick coatings.

So it is safe?

Yes. Teflon is perfectly safe to cook with and does not cause cancer. You may come across warnings regarding the use of the Teflon and what is often referred to as the Teflon flu. When heated over 300ºC, the non-stick coating begins to break down releasing fumes that can cause flu-like symptoms. Since temperatures must reach beyond what is normally used for everyday cooking, Teflon flu is of little concern and any symptoms are temporary.

To reduce the risk of overheating or damage to the pan here are some simple tips to follow and will increase the longevity of your cookware.

Tips for using Teflon Cookware

  • Avoid cooking at high heats
  • Do not pre-heat an empty pan
  • Avoid scratching the non-stick surface
  • Hand wash instead of using a dishwasher


Written by Katherine Ramsden, Nutritionist

Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programsprivate dietetic consultationschildren’s nutrition & dietetics,  school nutrition and  Corporate Wellness programs.  If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer to call us today on (08) 9385 7755.

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