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Iron Pots: Not all Good News!

Summary of Published Letter*

Guinea

Earlier editions of Field Exchange have highlighted research on the potential role of using iron cooking pots to increase iron intake and combat anaemia in refugee situations. However, a recent letter1 in the British Medical Journal suggests that there might be an inherent and overlooked danger in using iron cooking utensils. Apparently, in South Africa, indigenous people have been using iron pots for many years. The problem is that the pots are not only used for cooking; men also use them for brewing their traditional beer. This beer has a low pH and dissolves the pot, giving a beverage full of iron. In South Africa the incidence of haemosiderosis (the deposition of iron in the tissues due to excessive breakdown of red blood cells) in black people was the highest in the world. The condition even led to collapsed vertebrae due to a form of scurvy from the iron.

This haemosiderosis is only now starting to disappear as it is only about 25 years ago that South African laws changed, allowing black people to buy the 'white mans' liquor. Traditional brewing was no longer necessary and the beer was brewed by factories and not in iron pots any more.

Show footnotes

*Use of iron pots in South Africa led to haemosiderosis: C.F van der Merwe (1999), BMJ Vol 319, 27th, pp 432, November 1999.

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Reference this page

Iron Pots: Not all Good News!. Field Exchange 9, March 2000. p2. www.ennonline.net/fex/9/iron