German Risk Evaluation Institute Issues Warning on Melamine Cookware

melamine coffee cups photo

Image: moon angel

According to the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR, or German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment), melamine cookware and crockery are not suitable for microwaving, cooking, or exposure to high temperatures. Melamine, the chemical that was abused in the Chinese infant milk formula scandal, is generally considered as relatively non-hazardous (except when fed to infants in high quantities!) So what could be the concern?Melamine features prominantly in picnic and camping utensils, and has replaced steel, porcelain and china in many modern kitchens. It proved functional and practical in industrial food service settings...think melmac coffee cups and those cafeteria trays with separated areas for various types of food and drink. Then it went upmarket, as the perfect material for colorful designs ranging from disney to art deco.

It is typically not recommended for microwaving, and most people probably do not use melamine for cooking in microwaves as it does not pass the touch test (if the container gets hot where it is not in contact with the food or liquid, do not use it in the microwave). But even a short zap to warm up food may be too much: hot spots develop that lead to local breakdown of the melamine. And that colorful spoon and spatula set that you leave resting in your simmering pot of spaghetti may be adding more than mood.

The BfR advises that the amount of melamine migrating into foods at temperatures over 70°C (158°F) is more than they consider safe. Worse, when the melamine resin breaks down to release melamine, it also releases formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical. The amount of formaldehyde released is sufficient to exceed safe air quality limits in a typically sized kitchen. You can take measures to keep your family safe from melamine hazards while still enjoying the benefits of this unbreakable alternative to glass and china.

The BfR is a scientific body that works under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the German Government and State Governments, conducting research on topics related to their mission.

More on Plastic Food Contact:
Is New Biodegradable Plastic the Answer?
Q&A;: Glass Tupperware
The Politics of Plastics: Food Fights Over Bisphenol A

Related Content on