Today, there is more cookware to choose from than ever before. New materials and new types of cookware appear on the market all the time, and manufacturers tend to make all kinds of claims about their products.
But is it all true? Of course, there are manufacturers you can trust, but when you see a new name, how do you know whether to trust the product description? This is why NSF certification exists.
NSF International (known until 1990 as the National Sanitation Foundation) is a not for profit that deals with creating public health and sanitation standards and creates testing and certification programs for consumer products (including cookware, among others).
NSF acts as a third-party organization that tests products before they reach you. If a piece of cookware is advertised as NSF-certified, this means that the materials, design, and performance have been thoroughly tested to confirm that the product is safe and suitable to be used in your home, as well as in professional kitchens.
But what exactly it NSF? How did it become the most important cookware certification? Is it safe to use cookware that is not NSF-certified? These are the questions we will answer today, so read on if you want to find out.
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NSF International: History
The original name of the organization that’s called NSF International today was National Sanitation Foundation. Coincidentally, NSF is also the acronym for the National Science Foundation, but the two organizations are actually not related in any way.
The National Safety Foundation was founded in 1944 at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan by Walter Snyder, Henry Vaughan and Nathan Sinai. The goal of the NSF organization, right from the beginning was to develop public health certifications that will allow consumers and businesses to know which products are safe.
In order to do this, NSF needed to create standards of sanitation and food safety requirements that will allow them to rate a variety of products without bias, and this is exactly what they are doing all these years.
In 1952, the first NSF Testing Laboratory started working, and NSF’s first program, the Food Equipment Program, started. The first standard developed in NSF was introduced the same year and it was actually about soda fountain sanitation and it was quite successful.
NSF developed this standard following a transparent process based on consensus among different actors, and this is a model they have been using to develop a variety of standards to this day. 1952 was quite an important year for the development of NSF, as that is the year they have also established the Council of Public Health Consultants.
Over the years, NSF has continued to expand their work and develop new standards for a variety of products. Today, they have an elaborate network of laboratories not only in the US, but also in Europe, and China. To reflect the new developments, they have also changed their name in 1990. From National Sanitation Foundation to NSF international.
The structure of the organization has also changed considerably, as NSF international is now a not for profit organization affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO). The method they use to certify products hasn’t changed, though, and they are still the most important organization in the US if not the world providing third-party certification of cookware.
What Is Third Party Certification?
The main reason why the NSF certification on cookware means anything is the fact that it’s a third-party certification. But what is the point of having a third party certify a product? Well, as we all know, manufacturers can make all kinds of claims about their products. Anything can be said to be “healthy”, “non-toxic”, “indestructible”, or whatever, but how can you know if it is true?
This is exactly the point of third-party certifications like the NSF certification. If a product is awarded the NSF mark, this means the claims about it are true, according to unified standards and that the products meet general standards of quality and performance. To get a third party certification, a product needs to be tested in use, just like you would use it at home, so you don’t need to do it yourself.
NSF Cookware Standards
NSF International today is divided into different departments, and the NSF Consumer Products Division deals with cookware. They do not only certify cookware, but a variety of consumer products that are used in the home, including toys, appliances, and all kinds of cookware including utensils, cutlery, and cutting boards, for example.
Specifically, their NSF Home Product Certification Program deals with testing and certification of cookware. But how exactly does the certification work?
The protocol for testing is developed through a collaboration of the manufacturer of the specific product, public health experts, academics, and a technical panel. If the product passes the test – it gets the NSF mark.
Final Thoughts: Should I Care About NSF Certifications On Cookware?
Should you only look to buy products that have an NSF certification? What about cookware that looks good and has good reviews, but no NSF mark? Is it really that important? The truth is, if you are not a professional cook, the NSF certification is not a matter of life and death. While professional kitchens generally have to use NSF-certified products, cookware for home use does not need to get the certification.
On the other hand, buying an NSF-certified product does not hurt in any case. When you see the NSF mark, you will know that the cookware in question has been evaluated by a trusted third party, that it satisfies the quality and performance standards, and that the claims the manufacturers make about the product have been checked.
If you are not sure whether a specific product has acquired an NSF certification and you want to find out, you can actually use the search function directly on the NSF website to find out.