NOTE: This is not a Hot Deal. I posted it here for maximum visibility. Mods, feel free to move elsewhere, if needed.
I bought a Vitamix 5200 in 2014. I came across black specks issue through various websites. I tested the new unit at home and found similar black particles. I also expressed my concern on the Vitamix Facebook page along with others.
According to Vitamix: "Vitamix containers conform to the rigorous food equipment safety and sanitation standards from the National Sanitation Foundation, (NSF). Our seal material is safe and presents no health risk from repeat exposure or limited ingestion. Any flecks from the seal that may be ingested over the service years of our blenders represent a tiny fraction of what is considered safe."
Since, a large number of customers have expressed their concerns, Vitamix did some follow-up and their engineers seems to have reportedly figured out a way to prevent the black specks. Vitamix says that the updated design will be available in the market soon.
I came to know through some websites that Vitamix is offering the newly designed containers - w/o lid (in exchange for old containers w/o lid) to those who expressed concern. This week, I spoke with a representative regarding this and my shipment is on the way. I need to ship the old container (without lid) back to them later.
Disclaimer: I just copied and pasted the information below from these websites.
Some Vitamix blenders produce tiny black particles of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), the non-stick chemical more commonly known as Teflon
. Customers are upset, though health experts say there's nothing to worry about.
The PTFE flecks apparently come from a seal at the bottom of the containers used in all blender models, Scott Tennant, director of communications at Vitamix, told BuzzFeed News
. PTFE "has been used in pots and pans and other cookware for more than 50 years."
The flecks also contain about 2% graphite, which gives them their black color
, Tennant said. Vitamix conducted an internal analysis late last summer, then contracted an independent standards company to conduct similar tests. Vitamix has not published any of these scientific results.
Vitamix sold 1.4 million blenders last year, typically retailing between $400 and $700. The reason PTFE works so well as a non-stick coating is because it's chemically inert: Nothing reacts with it. So if the particles are indeed PTFE, as the company claims, then there's nothing to fret about, experts say.
"It's unsightly, and not many people want to have the visual of having black flakes in your food," Edward Boyer, director of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told BuzzFeed News. "But it's probably better for you than eating a cheeseburger every meal."
Since last spring, angry customers have been posting evidence of the tiny particles, which become visible if you run the machine with water inside.
Vitamix is working on a new, shard-free model:
"We are working toward possible modifications to the seal that we hope to have in place later this year," Tennant said.
The company will not be recalling the old models because the flecks don't pose any safety risks, he added. "We do care very, very deeply about customer preferences," he said. "This was not a safety issue."
PTFE releases toxic fumes when heated above ~500°F
It is true that pure PTFE is usually safe. The exception is when PTFE gets very hot - above 500 degrees Fahrenheit - and turns into vapor.
People who breathe in these fumes, such as workers who mill PTFE, can get chills, fever, and respiratory distress.
This is why you should be careful about preheating non-stick pans. However the Vitamix bearing seal never gets anywhere near that hot because it is in thermal contact with your food. If you were to run your Vitamix with nothing in it for a LONG time (over 5 minutes?), the bearings would heat up, but I think the container would melt well before the PTFE started off-gassing. (The container is made of Tritan copolyester, which starts to soften at ~250°F.)
Vitamix machines produce a lot of heat: The blades spin so forcefully that, after running for several minutes, it can heat the contents of the container, making hot soup. But that's not enough to vaporize PTFE.
"The good news here is it's very, very difficult for household equipment to heat up to the point that it can vaporize PTFE," Boyer, the University of Massachusetts toxicologist, said. "Unless you've got a burning Vitamix mixer, you're not going to have a problem with it."
Why does Vitamix use PTFE in the bearing seal?
In addition to being inert, PTFE is one of the most slippery materials. Slippery means low friction, which means that the high-speed bearings run more efficiently than they would with other materials. The only tradeoff is that PTFE has lower wear resistance than other materials. I suspect that lower wear resistance explains why we can sometimes detect the tiny black specks from Vitamix containers.
Do the black specks affect the longevity of the bearing seal?
The answer could be no, for two reasons:
- The specks are so small that they don't add up to a significant volume of material.
- According to the Vitamix employees I have spoken to, the PTFE seal is not a new component on Vitamix containers. That is, they've been using PTFE seals for many years, without seeing significant problems. It seems that the new development is that people started running the water and white bowl test last year and started detecting the specks. I know of Vitamix containers that have been going strong since the mid 90s. Also, remember that new machines come with a 5 or 7-year warranty.
Why hasn't Vitamix released a public statement?
I believe the reason is that they have determined that there is no health risk. I suspect that they do not want to have to explain why PTFE is not as scary as it might sound more than they have to. It took Vitamix a few months to communicate to all of their customer service associates, but now if you call and ask, the associates will tell you the nature of the black specks.
Vitamix is quite concerned about their consumers' well being, as they demonstrated in their fast-moving voluntary blade recall in 2013
In addition to not being a health problem, the black specs are not visible under normal blending conditions, so they won't harm the aesthetics of your blends.
One side note is that all high-speed blenders use these PTFE seals, and the black specks have been found in all the top brands.