Happy Birthday Teflon–Your 50th

March 10, 2011

There was a little birthday party in Chicago at the International Housewares Show this week to celebrate Teflon’s 50th birthday.  It was in 1961 that a Teflon coated product known as a “Happy Pan” debuted in America’s kitchens.  Since that time the slippery substance has grown like Topsy.

Since 1961, literally millions and millions of Teflon coated pans have been sold. In the U.S. along last year, nonstick pans shipped to stores were in the neighborhood of 50 million pieces.  Not all of them were Teflon–there are other firms who manufacture nonstick coatings–but Teflon has spread in the past 50 years around the planet.  You see the label from Singapore to London to Los Angeles .

Nonstick cookware like Teflon  has meant healthier cooking for the world.  Less grease is used and immeasurable amounts of clean up time has been saved.  The slippery substance keeps foods from sticking making even the clumsiest cook into an omelet expert.

And despite the nay-sayers who claim that nonstick coatings are poisonous, the truth is there have been many benefits from the use of Teflon.  An early version helped win World War II when it was used in the development of the atom bomb.  Thousands of lives have been improved with stents coated with Teflon materials–they are less likely to produce dangerous clots.  Teflon keeps windshield wipers working in snow and ice.  In industrial applications, Teflon seals keep all sorts of industrial processes running smoothly. It’s the active ingredient in stain resistant carpets and clothing.

So we raise a glass to toast Teflon and wish it, and its manufacturer, DuPont, a happy half-century birthday.



Another day…another recall

March 1, 2011

Word came out last week that another recall has been made–this time covering glass covers sold by

Creuset Cover Under Recall

one of the storied names in imported cookware, Le Creuset.  While a French manufacturer, Creuset has also gone to the China sources in what sure is an attempt to maintain margins or meet price points demanded by retailers.  Glass covers ought to be properly tempered, so if they do break, they shatter into small rounded pieces (like auto glass) rather than lacerating shards.

Visits to a number of Chinese factories has convinced me that you can get anything you want in China, but like everything else there is no free lunch.  If you want rigorous quality control, proper production monitoring, and serious post production followup, one has to be prepared to pay for it.  Chinese manufacturers aren’t dumb and they don’t stay in business by giving stuff away.  If you drive a low-ball price, low-ball quality is what you will get.

Creuset may have had all of these and yet still be erring on the side of caution. Woe unto the American business which hears of a product problem and fails to notify the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Note also that under the current administration that enforcement efforts and the number of recalls has increased.  Company executives can actually go to jail should they fail to report product problems to the government.

Some of the sorriest product out of China comes in as a private label product.  Retailers conduct on-line reverse auctions for an hour or two, forcing a number of manufacturers to cut each other’s prices until the low man on the totem pole wins the order.  Then it is up to the manufacturer to figure out how to make any money on the deal.  We hear weekly from people who bought a priv

ate label product and are unhappy with them. The retailer’s local operation has no idea where it was made, and typically the buyer is left holding the shoddy pan.

Buying a name brand product doesn’t necessarily insure quality, or that there won’t be a recall, but it pays off more often than not, in our opinion.