What's it all about?
To prevent burning when cooking, pans and pots are often given a non-stick coating. Many of these coatings contain polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which makes the surface grease- and water-repellent. This means that less oil is needed, cooked food does not burn as quickly and washing up is easier (Verbraucherzentrale Bayern 2015).
What is the problem?
Especially at high temperatures above 360°C, toxic vapours containing fluorinated compounds can escape from the PTFE coating. Inhaling these can lead to flu-like symptoms. Whether the chemicals from the coatings also pass into the food has not yet been conclusively clarified (Bundesamt für Risikobewertung 2018). There is an additional risk from scratched coatings: when cooking or rinsing, the coating can be damaged and small plastic particles can get into the food during preparation and eventually into our bodies. According to the Federal Office for Risk Assessment (2018), the plastic particles are excreted undigested due to their special properties, but it is best to avoid this as a precautionary measure..
What can I do?
Use uncoated pans and pots made of ceramic, cast iron or stainless steel. These will last a lifetime and are completely safe for your health. If you use coated cookware, make sure that the coating is not damaged and that the cookware is not heated strongly, especially if it is not yet filled, to avoid overheating.