Table flatware is often referred to as “silverware,” whether the dining implements are crafted of silver, stainless steel, or other material. Silverware is used to prepare, serve, and eat food in most industrialized nations. The primary pieces that make up the collective family of silverware are the knife, spoon, and fork. Originally crafted from silver or pewter, flatware is now also available in electroplated nickel silver, stainless steel, a nickel and copper alloy called melchior which may also contain manganese, or plastic for convenience or outdoor use.
The most common hazards associated with flatware are:
- Choking on the flatware, broken or dislodged parts
- Burns from heated flatware
- Accidental stabbings, punctures, or lacerations
- Eye injuries
- Accidental ingestion
- Dental injuries
Some examples of flatware recalled in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission due to reported incidences or documented injuries are:
- In 2009, Cambridge Silversmiths recalled 13,000 flatware sets due to choking hazards caused by small plastic inserts embedded in the flatware handles. The inserts could become loosened after extended use and repetitive dishwashing, presenting an ingestion risk for young children in particular. There were 28 reports of the inserts becoming dislodged from the flatware handles and one incident of injury.
- In 2006, BabySwede, LLC recalled 33,000 BabyBjorn feeding spoons because the spoon’s plastic tip was found to loosen and pose a serious choking hazard to babies. Eleven incidences of the spoon tip coming off during use were reported.
- In 2005, Giftco recalled Winnie the Pooh baby plate, fork, and spoon sets, because the fork tines were found to break after use, causing a choking hazard. One child choked on the fork tines, prompting the 26,000 unit recall.
According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, flatware injuries are frequently seen in emergency rooms. A sampling of 30 flatware-related injuries include:
- A 2-year-old child was eating ice cream with a plastic spoon when the spoon broke in the child’s mouth. The child swallowed a portion of the spoon without other injury.
- A 4-year-old child was hospitalized after an accidental self-inflicted stab wound to the knee during “pirate” game play.
- Several children from the sampling were running with a spoon or fork in their mouths, when they fell and the flatware caused a subsequent laceration or penetration of the soft palate.
- Several patients – including adults – suffered eye pain, lacerations, or damage due to accidental stabbing with a fork or spoon.
- Several injuries involved lacerations inflicted during horseplay and falls while holding flatware.
Hot tableware – including silverware – can cause scalds, with 52 percent of those injuries affecting children under 5 years old. In 2000, there were 1.165 million cases of tableware accidents necessitating medical care, including 582,000 emergency room visits. About 1 percent of the injured were hospitalized and three individuals died. Flatware-related deaths cost the U.S. over $15 million and the injuries cost over $12 billion.