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Q. I produce baking pans for small and wholesale bakeries, and would like to start offering the option of anodizing aluminum pans. (Of course these pans are available in the US from several different companies, and they insist on hard-anodized material) I have a number of questions regarding the subject:

1) What is the difference between hard-anodized and anodized?
2) Is the material food grade, or more specifically, can it be used with bread? Please refer to some official (FDA, USDA) report, if at all possible.
3) Is there any study on the finish's non-stick properties with bread? Would you recommend a specification best suited for that?
4) Should I expect a weakening of the base metal? This is usually a finely perforated sheet to start with.

I appreciate your help, and would be glad to provide more information on the application, if needed.

Mario Casarin
- Brazil

A. 1). Different chemical solutions; hard anodize is usually thicker, harder, more expensive.

2.) I have a reference, Metals Handbook Volume 5: Surface Engineering, American Society for Metals, Metals Park, Ohio, 44073, for gelatin molds on chemically brightened 1100-O alloy, sulfuric anodized, dyed and sealed.

3.) As a practical matter, commercial bakers in the United States are provided a spray vegetable shortening on perforated baking sheets. The baker would probably use this spray if the sheets were aluminum, anodized aluminum, or gold.

I guess that conventional sulfuric anodizing at thicknesses of 0.2 - 0.7 mils will work. I don't know about the dye, but sealing in hot deionized water sounds right for food use.

4.) The same reference has a table showing effect of anodizing on fatigue strength of aluminum alloys, so you are right to look into this before wholesale production. -tom

tom pullizzi monitor   tom pullizi signature
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania

Q. I want to get new pots and pans but am afraid to buy the commercial brand I have been looking at for quite sometime. We (the people of America) have been told that Alzheimer's can be caused by cooking with aluminum and to stop using it.

But 90% of what's on the market is just that. So, what is the difference in aluminum and anodized aluminum? Is anodized safe? I also was told to treat the new pans with Olive Oil and bake them in the oven like cast iron. Is this true? Does it help?

Please somebody, anybody, everybody help me with this questions. I care very much about what I put into my body and how it's prepared. This is just one of the many steps in life. I have been everywhere I can think of to find help on the web. Then I found you! Am waiting! Thanks to all

Pat Pierson
- Springfield Ohio

A. Here's the thing, Pat: NO, you haven't actually been told that!

People research thousands and thousands of things a year. But if the results of even an undependable small scale test can be interpreted in a frightening way, the media (because they are businesses that depend upon us tuning in) will tease you with "Toxic Time bomb in Your Kitchen? News at Eleven!" And people will talk it up at parties and it will be all the buzz.

And when it is found that the evidence is not convincing, there will only be silence. What television station is going to bet their ratings and their commercial income on an "Aluminum is probably safe" special? What party guest is going to demonstrate his scintillating conversational skills droning on that "aluminum probably isn't especially dangerous"? ("Oh Geez, Carol, don't tell me you invited old 'aluminum head' again").

If aluminum pots and pans were demonstrably dangerous they would have been banned decades ago by the EPA and FDA and thousands of health departments across the land. Everything is potentially dangerous, and aluminum could be, but there is no convincing evidence, and the Alzheimer's Association does not see it the way you have described it.

Aluminum is a very active metal that oxidizes immediately (sort of like rusting, but the oxide is clear not brown). Anodizing is an engineering process of "controlled oxidizing" so the oxide is uniform, attractive, and durable. It has no health effect one way or the other on aluminum.

If the manufacturer's instructions say to bake the aluminum pots, go ahead and do it. If not, don't.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Can I use any alloy if using anodized material for baking sheets?

Scott James
- Atlanta, Georgia
February 10, 2010

A. Hi, Scott. I don't think I'd say that. I think if you are a manufacturer you must check FDA regulations and see exactly what -- if anything -- they say on the matter. You'll probably find that anodized aluminum is "generally recognized as safe", but I can't say that for fact, nor that there are no exceptions. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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