It Might Be Time to Stop Using Your Vintage Corelle Dinnerware. Here’s Why

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If you have a set of Corelle dinnerware from before 2005, then this is a must-read.

Nearly all of us have a set of Corelle dinnerware in the cupboard. It may have been purchased after a ’70s kitchen update or kept on hand since the kids were born in the ’80s. (It is unbreakable, after all.) Because of that decades-long connection, it feels like a member of the family.

But that lengthy lifespan might also work against some of these pieces. Here’s why you should use caution when eating off of older Corelle dishes—and what you can do to tell whether your dinnerware is safe.

It’s a Problem with the Paint

To understand why you might want to keep retro Corelle in the cabinet, you have to understand the manufacturing process (and how it’s changed over the past several decades). Before the FDA placed regulations on how much lead could be used in tableware, plenty of companies used paints that contained lead on their products. Those regulations only came into effect around 40 years ago, meaning that if you have a set of dishes from pre-1980, there could be lead in the paint. If the paint leaches, meaning it chips, flakes off or mixes in with the food, you might consume lead along with your meal.

We don’t have to tell you this, but lead can lead to some nasty side effects. It can be especially harmful to children. There’s really no safe level of the stuff you can put in your body, either. So, while dish-related lead poisoning isn’t as serious as exposure to lead from house paints or water, those gorgeous designs on your Corelle could make you sick.

In an email posted on Lead Safe Mama, Corelle itself recommended any dishes made prior to 2005 be used for decoration only.

Do I Need to Throw My Corelle Dishes Away?

Not necessarily. Corelle products purchased after 2005 are safe and comply with FDA regulations. Now, if you have any older dishes, that gets a little trickier. You’ll want to avoid eating off of older Corelle dinnerware if it shows obvious signs of deterioration; if the glaze is worn, if the paint is melting or chipping, etc.

To make sure you’re not consuming lead, avoid eating hot foods on the dishes or drinking hot beverages from any cups, putting them in the microwave or storing food in them for long periods of time.

What Else Can I Do?

How can you be absolutely sure whether Corelle is safe to serve dinner? Lead Safe Mama has tested a few Corelle pieces. If none of those patterns look like yours, and you’re not sure when your set was made, use a lead test kit. Amazon offers several options, although it should be noted test kits are more useful for detecting high levels of lead, rather than trace amounts.

In the end, if you’re concerned, it’s probably best to put the dishes in a display cabinet and replace them with newer, safer designs—Corelle has lots of amazing dishes these days. For more info, reference our guide on how to buy plates for your kitchen.

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Emily Hannemann
Emily adores both food and writing, so combining those passions as a writer for Taste of Home makes perfect sense. Her work has also appeared in Birds & Blooms and on TV Insider. When she’s not eating peanut butter straight from the jar, you'll find her running or birdwatching. Emily is currently a journalism graduate student at the University of Missouri.