For a long time now, melamine has been a popular choice for dishware. And why not? It’s inexpensive, comes in a rainbow of colours and patterns, and is virtually unbreakable. It’s more shatterproof than other types of plastic and so has become a go to option for children’s feeding items.
At Hello Charlie, we offer a variety of nontoxic children’s dinnerware. But we don’t stock melamine.
Though it’s a common tableware material, we don’t feel that melamine is safe for little ones.
What is melamine?
If melamine is toxic, then why is it so common in our kitchens? Well, it’s a bit tricky.
Melamine is an organic chemical that appears as a white granular or crystalline substance. If you combine melamine and formaldehyde, you get melamine resin, a hard plastic. Melamine resin is often used to make dinnerware, kitchen utensils, countertops, tiles, adhesives, and cabinets.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, melamine dinnerware was all the rage. But because of melamine’s tendency to stain and scratch, it began to lose its appeal. Today, melamine tableware is typically relegated to the camping, and baby and toddler markets.
However, there have been doubts about the safety of using melamine for anything that comes in contact with food.
In 2008, the Chinese milk scandal erupted, shining the light once again on the potential dangers of melamine. Six children died and more than 50,000 were hospitalised after drinking formula tainted with melamine. The cause of death in the infants who drank fatal amounts of the contaminated milk was kidney stones and other kidney damage.
What the experts say about melamine
Scientists have yet to fully establish the effects of melamine in humans. But according to the World Health Organisation, animal studies show that melamine alone can give rise to kidney stones. Combined with cyanuric acid, which can also be found in melamine powder, it can cause kidney stones and, consequently, kidney failure.
The WHO also says that animal studies have shown that melamine has carcinogenic effects in certain circumstances.
Highly acidic foods can also cause melamine to leach from dinnerware into food. Although the amount is less than 2,500 parts per billion, the FDA recommends that food should not be heated on melamine based dinnerware in microwaves ovens.
Even if the risk of melamine contamination into your food is minimal, why take the risk? Why not use something that’s safe?
Bamboo vs. melamine
Fortunately, there’s a safe and eco friendly alternative to melamine that’s just as strong and durable.
Unlike melamine and other plastics, bamboo dinnerware doesn’t contain any nasties like PVC, BPA, or formaldehyde. Bamboo dinnerware is made from bamboo fibre and other plant based ingredients like rice bran and cornstarch. It is 100% biodegradable, toxin free, and food safe.
Like melamine, bamboo dinnerware is lightweight and easy to clean. It also comes in an assortment of colours and designs. But unlike melamine, it doesn’t scratch and stain as easily. Best of all, no toxins leach when you use bamboo dinnerware for hot and acidic foods (because there are none to begin with).
Caring for bamboo dinnerware
Bamboo dinnerware is easy to care for, too.
Both our ranges of bamboo dinnerware from Love Mae and bobo & boo are top rack dishwasher safe. You can hand wash them, too. Just use a soft sponge or cleaning cloth (never steel wool) and mild dishwashing liquid. Rinse them with warm water, pat them dry with a towel, and let them air dry.
Bamboo dinnerware will occasionally need some rehydrating. To do this, pour some food grade mineral oil, coconut oil, or bamboo conditioning oil on a clean cloth and rub it all over the utensils. Let them absorb the oil for a day or two before you use them again. This should prevent your bamboo dinnerware from drying out and cracking.
Do note that although bamboo dinnerware is durable and won’t smash like ceramics, it can chip or break if dropped on a hard surface.
And the best thing of all about bamboo dinnerware? It’s biodegradable! So if you can’t find another use for it after your toddler has outgrown it, you can bury it in the garden and it will break down naturally.
Images: Depositphoto, Love Mae, Bobo & Boo