[IMG]Based in the United States, the NSF International provides certification of products around the world that meet their standards for consumer safety. Contrary to what some salesmen may tell you, NSF is not a government entity, but an independent, non-profit organization. What does the NSF seal mean, who finds it important, and should home chef's be concerned if their cookware isn't NSF certified?
Who is NSF? NSF International is often confused with the government organization NSF (National Science Foundation), but the two are not related or affiliated in any way. NSF International is a non-profit company founded to increase public health and safety. Formerly called the National Safety Foundation, NSF International changed their name as the company began collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) more and more.
The NSF mark NSF has developed standards and testing practices for a variety of products and services ranging from bottled water to swimming pool equipment. In many of these cases the standards are simply an application of existing FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requirements. For example, NSF's Food Service Disposable Glove Certification ensures that gloves carrying the seal are made with FDA approved materials, do not leak, and are manufactured in a clean and controlled environment. In this example, the FDA does not have specific standards set for disposable gloves for food service use (they have standards for medical use), but they do have standards for materials for use in food preparation. The NSF certification ensures that a third party has authenticated the product as meeting those standards.
However, many products do not carry the NSF mark. Are these products that have failed NSF certification and are less safe than products that carry the mark? Not necessarily. NSF certification is a voluntary process and NSF International charges a fee to the manufacturer to have the product certified. Many products are manufactured that meet or exceed the NSF safety standards but are not inspected or certified by NSF.
Does NSF certification matter? In most cases, if you are not a food service professional, NSF certified products are not an issue. For the home or amateur chef, product performance and quality are of higher importance than the guarantee of product safety since almost all major brands of cookware and kitchen equipment self-regulate and maintain at least the minimum level of safety standards in their choice of materials and manufacturing processes.
For the professional kitchen, NSF certification is very important. For many restaurants, the use of NSF certified products is a necessity to show the company has done their job in protecting their customers by selecting products known and tested to be safe. Supermarkets butcher their meats with NSF certified equipment and fast food chains cook with tool bearing the NSF mark to protect themselves as much as their customers.
Do you need NSF certified kitchen equipment? In general, it doesn't hurt to have tools bearing the NSF mark, but I wouldn't use it as a deciding factor when purchasing gear for your kitchen. Recently a salesman we saw at Costco pushing Cook's Warehouse's Ameriware Professional cookware and claimed that the Ameriware pans were "more durable and safer because they are government certified for professional kitchens which is why Ameriware can claim their cookware to be Professional". (While saying this, the salesman flipped the pan over and showed the NSF mark etched into the bottom of the aluminum pan.) The salesman then went on to use the certification as one of the reasons why the pan's high price was justifiable as professional cookware is expensive. (That last statement is usually not true. Cookware designed for the professional kitchen is often cheaper than those designed for the home because they are replaced on at regular intervals. For example, Vollrath, a reputable restaurant equipment manufacturer who happens to manufacture Ameriware for Cook's Warehouse, makes a 12 in. non-stick aluminum pan that can be bought from a restaurant supply store for $25 while the comparable Ameriware pan was over $80 with the "show discount". Of course, the Ameriware pan has a space age titanium-ceramic non-stick surface... but no one has given me the opportunity to test a traditional non-stick against the Ameriware non-stick, yet.)
The only time I look specifically for the NSF mark is when purchasing a product (like a plastic cutting board) from a company that I have never heard of. In those cases, I can't "trust" the company (since I know nothing about them), and find some assurance from the NSF certification.
The Costco cookware purveyor falls into the Anthony Bourdain's description of the two biggest hoaxes to the American buying public. One is expensive knives from Germany and the other specialty cookware. Bourdain suggests we all go to the nearest restauirant supply house and purchase what we need and forget the fancy name brand stuff.
I bought 2 Ameriware fry pans at Costco. I was skeptical about spending that much money.
I use fry pans as a test of quality cookware. One reason is I use fry pans 80% of the time.
I have bought Circulon, Faberware, Restaurant Supply pans plus many others.
I Have had this pan 3 months. use it 2 to 3 times a day.
I will say Ameriware is the best fry pan I have ever bought.
I can fry an egg put cheese on it turn it over with cheese on bottom till it melts then turn it over on plate without sticking. Try that with any of the others and you will get a mess.
NSF Standards have been around since the 50’s. The idea being, if the product meets the NSF Standards, then if will be readily accepted food service use in all of the U.S.-North America with no hesitation. Though voluntary, the majority or the US and large buyers mandate the NSF Mark on products.
Before NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), Food Equipment was scrutinized by hundreds of different municipalities and state governments, all with different ideas on what was and was not acceptable for commercial use. The NSF took care of the inconsistency by bringing together all the health departments, government, manufacturers, buyers, interested parties etc. No health department will ever give you grief on NSF Certified equipment if it is being used properly.
The NSF looks at products using standards developed and written by the industry and NSF participants. They look at cookware (as well as all types of products) to be sure the materials are non-toxic, do not leach, color, odor, harmful substances into the foods they will come into contact with, meet design requirements (food safety), and are easily cleanable (sanitation).
This is important to me both for residential use and commercial use, especially with all the products coming from Asia. Large consumer retailers are also looking to the NSF for help (Sam’s, Williams Sonoma, Costco). Many Asian countries have a very lax attitude towards plastics and coatings used in products they sell. They also have a way of disappearing during times of serious inquire. The NSF has a very good web site that displays all the commercial and consumer products they challenge and certify at www.nsf.org.
I would imagine that Vollrath -- the manufacturer of Ameriware -- uses a ceramic-titanium foundation under a PTFE (aka Teflon) coating for their Ameriware line, similar to Scanpan. (This is difficult to confirm, as there is very little info on Ameriware available, either on the internet or in the manual which comes with the cookware.) The foundation allows for using less PTFE, and also causes the PTFE to stick much better to the pan -- which is why Scanpan (and Ameriware, I'd imagine) assert that their pans are safe to use with metal utensils. However, if this is the case, you are not cooking on the ceramic-titanium, but on PTFE/Teflon. Any claims to the contrary are disingenuous sales ploys.
I bought the Ameriware yesterday at Costco on the basis that the salesman claim of no Teflon on the pan was true. Based on what I have read here, that is a false statement. The salesman also claimed that Teflon is a dangerous coating as shown in a number of recent medical studies and that it should not be used. The Ceramic-Titanium claimed by the salesmen appears to be just an underlayment on the pan while the non stick surface is strill Teflon.
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1626 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 4:08 am Post subject:
Well, I wouldn't rush to label Ameriware as a scam. Sometimes it's difficult to trust what the demonstrators at shows or Costco are saying because they might not understand the details on what makes their products unique (same goes for Cutco salespeople), but that doesn't necessarily mean the product is a scam.
It is probably true that the Ameriware pans do not use Teflon because they probably use a generic PTFE instead (Teflon is a brand). Or, maybe they don't use PTFE at all. We don't know and the Ameriware people haven't called me back.
Also, Teflon has been established as safe by the U.S. government and numerous studies have shown it to pass through the human body with little effect - but some animals may be sensitive to the fumes from a severely overheated pan (birds are particularly sensitive to fumes from overheatd pans - teflon or not, as well as most aerosols, etc.). Nevertheless, I don't recommend cooking on a pan with it's nonstick layer chipping off.
I am curious to find out how well your Ameriware cookware holds up over usage for the next several months (and if the non-stick ability deteriorates over time).
I bought the Ameriware set at Costco recently myself. I can be kinda rough with my pots and pans. Tonight I made the mistake of leaving a pot on with very little water in it and ended up burning the pan. Normally I would throw it out because it was compeletely ruined. Tonight I decided to take a different approach. I let it cool and then washed it out with a little soap and water with a soft dish cloth. It came completely clean and there was NO sign that it had ever been burnt. I thought I was happy with my Ameriware cookware before, now I am absolutely AMAZED.
Well I just returned from Costco and I was 'sold' by the pot hawker and shucker, or was I? I have needed a good set of pots for a long time. This appeared to be a good deal and 'impulse' got the better of me...well not exactly true.
When I buy something at Costco, I don't have to care about whether it's the best buy or the best quality product, at least I don't have to care up front, before making the purchase. I can determine that over the next months (or years). The point is: Costco backs their products like NO OTHER RETAILER in the world! If you dont like it...take it back for a full refund...NO QUESTIONS asked.
The truth is that Ameriware warranties its cookware against defects for 25 years. I know that Costco will take this product back during the period of this warranty. It's simple...at Costco, buy it when you see it, if you like it, because tomorrow it may not be there. If it turns out, you dont like it, or you feel that you have 'sold' by a Costco hawker/shucker....RETURN IT TO COSTCO and remind yourself to grow a backbone before going shopping next time...and then be glad that you made your Ameriware purchase at Costco.
I will update this message board over the next months to critique the Ameriware product....but as you already know, I am not worried that I wont like it...either I have made an excellent purchase of quality cookware...or Costco gets another of my purchases returned to them. DPY
Any updates on whether the Ameriware cookware contains any PTFE? I'm curious as I just purchased the set from Costco, and my husband (who's an engineer) gave me the third degree about the no Teflon claim... also, since it's now been some months since you purchased your pots Michael, I'm wondering how you've found them to perform. Thanks.
Posted: Wed Aug 10, 2005 8:13 pm Post subject: Check out what the Better Business Burea has to say
I was an eager observer of an Ameriware demonstration done yesterday at my local Costco (Grand Rapids, MI). I was impressed as I watched Saran Wrap, melted against the side of a hot sauté pan, be whisked cleanly away by the Ameriware demonstrator. My eyes widened as burned cheddar cheese was wiped easily from the bottom of a saucepan with a wimpy paper towel. For twenty minutes the demonstrator held me a willing captive, and captivated I was! So eager was I to purchase the "special buy in partnership with Costco”— so sold was I on the fact that I would experience a "savings of at least $300"— that I whined loudly and stomped my foot belligerently, right then and there, when my husband staunchly refused to buy the cookware until I had researched it thoroughly (rotten engineer! He makes my whimsies so... planned!).
Hence, today we researched. We visited the websites the Ameriware demonstrator told us to look at, and then we scoured for other informative Internet postings (which is how I found this bulletin board). I remained positive about the cookware. My husband
(despicable engineer! He turns my trusting nature more cynical day by day as he forces me to weigh things not with my heart, but with my mind) persisted with his search long after I had made up my mind that I would be getting the "fantastic deal" the Ameriware demonstrator had assured me I would be.
Thirty minutes after I hung up from another session of "if I whine long and loudly, eventually he'll give in", my husband called back. "Check out what the Better Business Burea has to say", says he (maddening engineer! Has he quashed another fragile hope— that there's an honest salesman yet to be found, and a cookware set that will stand the test of time?) I am alarmed by the smugness with which he speaks this line.
So, to www.bbb.org I go. I look up Ameriware. I am again impressed... but this time by my seemingly limitless gullibility. The impartial website the Ameriware demonstrator told me to look at (www.onlinecookery.com)? OWNED BY AMERIWARE! The “Cook’s Warehouse” that the demonstrator heralded as “the preferred vendor of Ameriware products”? It’s not a vendor— IT’S AMERIWARE! It’s like General Motors Corporation selling vehicles under different names: Pontiac, Chevrolet, Cadillac. Call it what you like, it’s still from GMC. You can buy a real beauty from a Saturn dealership, but under all the marketing, logos, slogans and incentives, you’re buying GMC.
“But wait, there’s MORE!” I accepted as truth the claim the demonstrator made that “Ameriware has been in business since 1874”. Surely, a company with that much history will be around if my saucepan peters out before the 25-year warranty expires! And of course I can trust that I can easily return my petered-out product to Ameriware for a “cheerful replacement or refund”. Not so, says the Better Business Bureau. First, Ameriware has only been in business since 1978 (a full century LESS than claimed by not only the demonstrator, but Ameriware’s own literature and eye-catching site logo!) Furthermore, according to the Better Business Bureau, Ameriware cookware does indeed peter out, and is not so very cheerfully replaced or refunded.
No research into Ameriware’s claims could be complete without also researching Vollrath, the company that actually manufactures the cookware products Ameriware, “in partnership with Costco”, offers at such a significant savings. Vollrath? An excellent company, according to the Better Business Bureau. The hitch? You’re not buying from Vollrath— you’re buying from Ameriware. Vollrath may very well take excellent care of its customers (i.e., Ameriware, and others), but it’s not Vollrath that’s guaranteeing the product. Vollrath manufactures the cookware to customer specification, but that’s the extent of their involvement with the cookware where you, the buyer, are concerned. But who’s to say, even though Vollrath is a reputable company, if Ameriware’s specifications are “up to snuff” when it comes to the quality and longevity of the product? That’s really an individual determination, and in the end, boils down to the opinion of the consumer.
My opinion is this: I’m glad my husband is a rotten, despicable, maddening… savvy, suspicious, and educated… engineer and consumer. I’m equally glad I didn’t spend $400 for cookware that might not have lived up to my expectations. Am I convinced that Ameriware’s products are garbage? No. They may be just as good as anything else out there. They may even be better. But are they worth the inflated cost? I don’t think so. Additionally, I’m big on integrity. If a company will resort to outright lies and theatrical displays in an attempt to separate me from my hard-earned cash, I’m simply not interested in what they have to peddle, no matter how much I may want it or how good it may be. And in the greater scheme of things, if they stoop so low to lay hold of my dollar, I highly doubt they’ll be upstanding enough to give my dollar back should I be dissatisfied with my product somewhere down the road. Call me stubborn, call me stupid, call me strange – I’d rather buy a $20 pan that I’ll need to replace every five years from an upstanding company than buy a $100 pan that will last me four times as long from a company of ill-repute. And try the math. Either way - $20 a pop five times in twenty years or a single $100 pop in twenty years – you end up in the very same place.
So there’s what I know for what it’s worth. But don’t just take my word for it— if there’s something I relearned today, it’s to not take ANYBODY’S “word for it”. Visit bbb.org for yourself, and like me, become an educated consumer.