Are Melamine Plates Safe?

| May 2, 2007

As a mother of a young child, I am constantly on the prowl for what’s safe and what isn’t. In my house, we avoid partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and microwaving plastic. But until this week, I hadn’t given a thought to the melamine plates that my son eats from. After all, the durable melamine prevents accidental breakage from my helpful boy trying to clear the table.

But after weeks of coverage of the tainted pet food that has killed countless pets from kidney failure, it’s come to light that the chemical pesticide that harmed the animals was melamine - the same chemical that is in the melamine resin that my son’s plates are made of. It’s bad enough that the harmful chemical has made it’s way into our food supply. But why isn’t anyone questioning this material’s other uses?

Melamine is something that has been widely considered safe. But even the FDA admits to be taken by surprise by the harmful effects of melamine additives on animals, according to NPR. Could melamine not be that safe after all? And if so, is the contact risk of using melamine plates an acceptable risk for my child?

So, I’ve done a touch of research. Melamine resin – the stuff plates are made of – is a compound made of the melamine chemical and another chemical, urea. It is more heat-safe than regular plastics, but can melt at high temperatures. And it’s not microwave safe.

So what then? Urea? Potentially harmful chemicals? It’s definitely an eyeopener. And honestly, with the risks of melamine in the food supply coming to light, I can’t help but have concerns that it’s not safe enough to eat off of either. I don’t care that people have been using it since the 60s. It’s just not an acceptable risk for my son.

I think it might be time to look into Corelle.

UPDATE: I decided what to do about the melamine.

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Category: Mama's baby, rants, Thoughts

About the Author ()

Sarah Walker Caron is a writer, editor and recipe developer who loves to create delicious recipes the whole family can enjoy together. Her work has appeared in countless publications including iVillage, BELLA NYC Magazine, Yum for Kids magazine and more. She lives in Maine with her two food-loving kids.

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  1. Is Melamine Safe? « Family Health & Parenting | May 8, 2008
  1. Virtual Frolic says:

    That’s a good point – corelle rocks anyways. That stuff is impossible to break!

  2. Patti says:

    Good post. After reading it I also wonder why no one is talking about melamine’s other potentially harmful applications.

    I have broken Corelle dishes in the past. They can get worn out.

  3. Anonymous says:

    All my life i had been using glass plates……but as i went to another country over there i had been using these melamine plates for a year……recently in papers i had seen its was banned in the country which i use to live in……and now i came to know the reason why i am still not settled with home food…..as when ever i have home food it causes me indigestion and lazyness……and when i had outside food everything goes fine……these plates sucks and i am going to throw it now itself!

  4. Charlie says:

    I was concerned too. And bummed, because I love my kitchy melamine plates, but alas I’m gonna throw them out…along with my baby bottles and sippy cups that contain bisphenol A. Oye! ‘gotta be careful!

  5. Juan says:

    I do not know if they are safe. I do know that in the pet food situation, the melamine was added intentionally so that it appeared to have a higher nitrogen (used to measure protein) content. They were surprised it was that toxic and actually there have been cases of cats with the characteristic crystals in the urine from melamine that ate food not positive for melamine. So they are not sure if it was the melamine reacting with something else or something else!

  6. Heather says:

    How do you know if your plates or other plasticware or containers are made with melamine?

  7. Casey says:

    I was just given a set of very pretty Melamine mixing bowls. I like them because they are light and colorful. Now I am wondering if I should very nicley give them back to the giver and look for something else. If so what? I want something that is light weight and not hard to lift. What can you suggest?
    Casey

  8. Sarah Caron says:

    Hi Casey,

    Thanks for the comment!

    It’s really unfortunate that the prettiest mixing bowls are made from melamine. I’ve seen many that were fun and funky, but for my family and me I just can’t believe it’s as safe as its claimed to be given what melamine is made from.

    Instead, I use stainless steel mixing bowls. Stainless steel is lightweight and non-reactive (which means that it won’t change the flavor of whatever food you are mixing in it). So that might work for you too — if you look around a bit (I searched for “stainless steel mixing bowls” on Amazon), you can find some that are stainless on the inside with a colored exterior.

    Hope that helps!

    S

  9. Sarah Caron says:

    Hi Heather,

    Good question — and a hard one to answer. Look at the bottom of your plates first and see if there is a label or identifying marks. Sometimes it will just say melamine (but not always).

    Basically melamine is a very, very, very hard plastic that many – I might go so far as to say most – plastic dinnerware is made of.

    Wish I could help you more!

    S

  10. Franky says:

    There is no doubt that melamine added to food is harmful. However, I wonder how much of that substance is released from the plate.

  11. Bernice W. says:

    I have had Corelle dishes shatter into zillions of tiny, sharp shards when they were dropped. It doesn’t happen often, but they should not be considered unbreakable.

    I really doubt that enough melamine will leach from dishes to be harmful. They have been used since the 1960s, after all, with no reports of problems from normal use.