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Consumer fraud alert: Swiss Diamond non-stick cookware made with same chemical as Teflon

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In the wake of health warnings about Teflon and non-stick cookware, health-conscious consumers are increasingly seeking safer, alternative cookware products that offer non-stick cooking without the worries of Teflon. As part of an investigative story for NewsTarget, I searched the web for Teflon alternatives and eventually stumbled across a line of cookware from a company called Swiss Diamond, which claimed their pans were made of diamonds and contained no Teflon. I purchased one of the pans and put it to the test.

This article is about what I discovered with the Swiss Diamond pans. Based on what I have learned, it is my personal opinion that the Swiss Diamond company is engaged in deceptive marketing based on false and misleading claims about the chemical composition and durability of their non-stick cookware products. I believe that consumers are being fooled into buying Swiss Diamond pans based on the false impression that these pans are Teflon free and that the non-stick surface is made primarily of diamonds. As you will learn here, this is far from the truth.

The promise of safe non-stick cookware
At first, the promotional literature for the Swiss Diamond pans sounds very promising. Websites selling the cookware claim, "The cookware is made with synthetic diamonds! Diamonds will heat up fast and evenly without any hot spots." Or, "This cookware line was awarded the Gold Medallion at the Inventor's Fair in Geneva." (Comments can be found on various online retailers through a Google search for "Swiss Diamond cookware.")

The pans are also characterized as, "One of the most durable cookware lines on the market today. Their superior non-stick coating is able to withstand the abuse of metal utensils and dishwashers." The NextTen catalog (www.NextTen.com) specifically implies that Swiss Diamond pans contain no Teflon:

"Ordinary non-stick surfaces can't handle those high cooking temperatures. They start to break down and degrade on some stovetops. Even the EPA is studying the potential dangers in the toxic breakdown of the most famous non-stick surface. Instead, Swiss Diamond forms a virtually indestructible surface that will not crack, peel or blister..."

Besides stressing indestructibility, there's a strict avoidance of the word "Teflon" in all the promotional literature I've seen on Swiss Diamond cookware. Teflon isn't on the product box and, in fact, the SwissDiamond.com website insists the product contains no Teflon whatsoever! From the company's FAQ page:

Question: Does Swiss Diamond surface contain "TEFLON"?
Answer: NO! The Swiss Diamond coating does not contain any Teflon taking into consideration that "Teflon" is a trade mark, made and owned by "DUPONT".

Both the product box and the website heavily emphasize the benefits of cooking on diamonds with claims like, "Diamonds make the difference!" and "Perfect heat distribution!" The point seems to be distracting consumers from what the pan is really made of and keeping them focused on a minor ingredient: the diamonds.

Nano-composite... of what?
So what does the non-stick cooking surface actually contain, then? The box describes it as a "nano-composite," which sounds really high-tech. Plus, "diamonds" are always strongly emphasized. The impression I got when shopping for this product is that I would be cooking on diamonds, and that whatever the nano-composite was made of, it would certainly be safer than Teflon.

I wrote the Swiss Diamond company and asked for an explanation of what the nano-composite material was made of. After a week or so, I received a polite reply from Allan Wolk, an employee in the U.S. His email informed me that, "Our patented nonstick surface uses a nano-composite of real diamond crystals and PTFE; it is applied using a computer controlled plasma gun at very high temperatures."

Naturally, my attention was immediately drawn to the PTFE. The acronym sounded familiar. What was PTFE? A quick search of Wikipedia provided the answer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PTFE). As Wikipedia explains:

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a fluoropolymer discovered by Roy J. Plunkett (1910-1994) of DuPont in 1938. It was introduced as a commercial product in 1946 and is generally known to the public by DuPont's brand name Teflon «.

Huh? Teflon? Wait a minute. Didn't the Swiss Diamond website just claim that the product contained no Teflon?

For the manufacturer to insist the Swiss Diamond pans contain no Teflon whatsoever when it is made primarily from polytetrafluoroethylene, the chemical widely known as Teflon, is extremely deceptive. In fact, the intent of the Swiss Diamond company seems to be to deceive consumers by omission of the facts. The FAQ document on the Swiss Diamond website, for example, does not bother to say something like, "But our pans do contain PTFE, the chemical known as Teflon." It simply insists they contain no Teflon and moves on to the next question.

Consumers are being hoodwinked
Apparently, I'm not the only one who thought the Swiss Diamond pans offered a replacement for Teflon. A prominent user comment found at the Amazon.com sales page for these pans says:
My wife now prefers diamonds in her cookware instead of Teflon. After years of eating out of Teflon cookware and ingesting how many pounds of Teflon over the years, I have finally seen cookware that lives up to the name of nonstick. Instead of using Pam spray or butter on old used Teflon frying pans, I can now cook without butter, (or maybe just a touch of butter, I still love the taste) and get a perfect egg. Throw away all those old wooden utensils. You can now use metal spatulas or that old spoon to stir the pot without getting hollered at for scratching the pans. My wife is happy so I'm happy and cleanup is a snap. - Robert Fry, "Diamonds are forever and cost more than Teflon," posted March 7, 2006.

It is clear from this user comment that Robert Fry believes the Swiss Diamond pans contain no Teflon. This false belief is widespread among both consumers and retailers, and it appears to be reinforced by the Swiss Diamond company's marketing materials which specifically attempt to distance the company from Teflon even though its own pans are made with precisely the same chemicals.

The NextTen.com catalog mentioned earlier also seems to have been hoodwinked. Their catalog says, "Even the EPA is studying the potential dangers in the toxic breakdown of the most famous non-stick surface. Instead, Swiss Diamond forms a virtually indestructible surface..." What the NextTen catalog fails to mention, though, is that the "most famous non-stick surface" is made of polytetrafluoroethylene, the exact same chemical used in Swiss Diamond pans!

Yet the deception doesn't end there. The Swiss Diamond company also makes utterly outrageous and false claims concerning the durability of its pans.

Virtually indestructible!
We all know that diamonds are extremely durable, right? The Swiss Diamond company plays on this common knowledge by associating the diamond content of their non-stick cooking surface with the idea that their pans are "indestructible."

The side panel of the Swiss Diamond pan box (click the thumbnail), the box proudly proclaims, "Diamonds make the difference!" and that the pan is, "Virtually indestructible." That's quite an impressive claim. It also claims to provide, "Perfect heat distribution." The text on the side of the box also claims that, "Diamond crystals form an indestructible non-stick cooking surface that will not crack, blister or peel."

"Indestructible" is a big claim. It brings to mind Consumer Reports testing of the pan with rifles, blowtorches and power tools. But I decided to give the pan a much simpler test: the fork test. If the pan's surface is indestructible, it certainly would stand up to simple scratching by a fork, right?

The fork test
To avoid any claims that this test was faked or altered in any way, I decided to film the fork test live and post it online (the location of the video and graphic stills of the test is below). The videos show where I easily and quite visibly scratched the surface of the Swiss Diamond pan with a common household fork.

This was done with a regular household fork, right out in broad daylight on my back patio. It didn't take any special effort or power tools.

The non-stick "diamond nano-composite" surface hardly seems indestructible, doesn't it? Indestructible would, I think, include not being harmed by a simple fork scratch. And it makes you wonder: if a fork can scratch the pan so easily, at room temperature, how vulnerable is the pan to scratching by metal utensils at high temperature?

Clearly, the Swiss Diamond cooking surface is quite destructible. If it can be damaged with a fork, it will quite obviously be just as easily damaged by metal cooking utensils.
In fact, the pan is so easy to scratch that I was able to scratch the word, "FRAUD" into the surface using that same fork. To see the results of this test yourself, you'll have to visit http://www.newstarget.com/021059.html

Consumer fraud? You be the judge...
The nano-composite non-stick cooking surface is made primarily with PTFE, the chemical known as Teflon.

The pan is marketed as a product that contains NO Teflon and is safe for your health.

The non-stick surface scratches easily with a common fork.

The marketing of Swiss Diamond cookware heavily emphasizes "diamonds" while seemingly going out of its way to avoid mentioning Teflon or PTFE chemicals. It appears to give consumers the impression that they are "cooking on diamonds."

Consumers are being widely misled into believing that this product is an alternative to Teflon when, in reality, it's made of the same thing as Teflon. Swiss Diamond pans are being marketed by some of the best-known retailers and catalog companies in the world, including Amazon.com, NextTen catalog and hundreds of others. My advice? Steer clear of Swiss Diamond pans, unless, of course, you have a great inner desire to pay $99 for a $20 Teflon pan fluffed up with marketing hype and deceptive product claims.

And you should be wary of health claims from any non-stick cookware. To my knowledge, the only healthy surfaces to cook on are cast iron, stainless steel (like a giant wok), and Pyrex.

The FTC has taken no action against the Swiss Diamond company. Perhaps after reading this article, they will take a closer look. You can bet that the Swiss Diamond company will scramble to make immediate modifications to its website and product marketing materials, including its box.

Once exposed, companies like this usually try to eliminate the evidence as quickly as possible and act like they were never engaged in any kind of deceptive marketing practices or product claims.

The most likely outcome of all this, of course, is that the Swiss Diamond company will threaten me with legal action for daring to go public with the truth about their products. But that's why I've backed up everything here and on the NewsTarget website with undeniable evidence, plus the support of half a million readers who would be quite interested in hearing more stories about a company that tried to attack NewsTarget for reporting the truth.
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