Most materials are either designated as “natural” or “man-made.”  If the material is found in nature and man has been using it for a few thousand years, it is generally considered safe.

The basic thought is that if God made it (i.e. it is a natural material), unless proven otherwise, the assumption is that it is safe. If the product is man-made, some due diligence is probably in order.  

Man has been using natural stone for a long time, but engineered stone or quartz is a recent innovation and there are different processes used in the market today.

We know that what man can make, man can make wrong.  That is why independent testing agencies have been created. The National Sanitation Foundation is such an agency.  Like Underwriter Laboratories, the NSF implements standards to insure public health and safety.  Manufacturers often are not required to seek listing or certification from outside agencies, but failure to do so may raise questions by customers and may also prove embarrassing if a matter should ever come to court.

The NSF does a complete chemical and physical analysis of materials submitted for use in “Food Zone” areas. They also do process audits to insure that the manufacturer has not deviated from the tested process. For products listed as “Splash Zone” no analytical testing is done and there is no on-going factory inspection by the NSF.  

This does not mean that the product is unsafe; it simply means that the NSF has not tested and approved it as safe for areas that are in direct contact with food. I think that the standard is actually fairly clear. It is the advertising that may be a problem.

Advertisements that display Splash Zone products, used as countertops, with the NSF logo prominently displayed could lead someone to the conclusion that the NSF has certified the product as safe for Food Zone. The only way to know if a product is certified as Food Zone safe is to check the NSF website listing.

We have had a lively internal debate as to whether we should or should not print this information. The Slippery Rock Gazette is not a conventional newspaper and we are simply not capable of doing investigative reporting. That is why we asked the NSF to tell its story rather than writing it ourselves.  

A bigger question is, “Why print it?” What do we have to gain and lose?

We finally decided that if printing this prevented a product failure like drywall or flooring, it would be worth it. Quartz can be a useful product, but only if the market has confidence in the manufacturers. We urge all manufacturers of quartz products intended for use as countertops to seek “Food Zone” status as quickly as possible.

If you have thoughts or concerns, please address them to .

– Rich Hassert