Are Melamine Dishes and Polyamide Plastic Utensils Safe?

Are Melamine Dishes and Polyamide Plastic Utensils Safe?
4.7 (93.95%) 76 votes

I recommend glass, ceramic, porcelain, or stainless-steel tableware and wooden or stainless-steel cooking utensils.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Melamine is used to make a variety of hard plastic cups, plates, bowls, and utensils because they are dishwasher safe, inexpensive, and durable. If that word sounds familiar, it may be because melamine is also illegally added to protein products to game the system to make it appear that pet food has more protein than it does. By 2007, more than 1,000 potentially contaminated pet food products were recalled after it “was found to be a contaminant in wheat gluten used in those products”––but not before it caused disease and death in pets throughout North America.

“It is presumed that melamine was intentionally added by suppliers in China to falsely elevate the measured protein content and, hence, the monetary value of these products.” And the pet food scandal was just the writing on the wall. The next year, “melamine was discovered to be the cause of an outbreak of [kidney] stones and [kidney] failure” affecting hundreds of thousands of infants and young children throughout China, when melamine was used to falsify the protein content of infant formula and powdered milk.

In the U.S., you can find it in food packaging, and sneaking its way into animal feed, but those using melamine dishware can be exposed directly, migrating straight into the food upon exposure to heat. So yeah, cooking spoons and dishes made out of melamine are not suited for microwaves and cooking, according to food safety authorities. Okay, but what if you never cook with it, fry with it, or microwave it. What if you just use it to eat out of?

“A Crossover Study of Noodle Soup Consumption in Melamine Bowls” versus the same soup eaten out of ceramic bowls, and then just measure the amount of melamine flowing through their bodies. And they found that “melamine tableware may release large amounts of melamine when used to serve high-temperature foods,” and not even hot foods. “Melamine migration can be detectable from melamine tableware, even [at] low temperatures,” like just warm water. Why do we care? Because the level of melamine you’re exposed to “is significantly associated with kidney function deterioration in patients with early-stage chronic kidney disease,” in which even relatively “low melamine levels may cause a rapid decline in kidney function.” So, I would suggest glass, ceramic, porcelain, or stainless-steel tableware instead.

What about polyamide utensils? All sorts of different plastic materials are used in kitchen utensils. Polyamide is typically used for spatulas or ladles due to their high heat and oil resistance. “However, components of this plastic can migrate from the utensils into the food and consequently be ingested by consumers.” Out of 33 utensils tested, nearly one in three exceeded the upper safety limit. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment “recommends that consumers keep contact with food as brief as possible when using polyamide kitchen gadgets,” especially above the temperature at which like hot tea or coffee might be served at.

A different survey of black plastic kitchen utensils found about a third contaminated with flame retardant chemicals. Why? Because it may be made from plastic recycled from electronic equipment that was impregnated with the stuff. And then, should you dip it in oil, the chemicals can trickle out, suggesting using such “utensils for frying [could] lead to considerable dietary exposure.”

And, the black dye itself in some black polyamide utensils can leach out as well. Eventually, with enough use, the levels drop, but it may take the equivalent of boiling the utensils for about 100 hours before the dye leaking would approach safety levels. Probably just easier to use utensils that are wooden or stainless steel.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Melamine is used to make a variety of hard plastic cups, plates, bowls, and utensils because they are dishwasher safe, inexpensive, and durable. If that word sounds familiar, it may be because melamine is also illegally added to protein products to game the system to make it appear that pet food has more protein than it does. By 2007, more than 1,000 potentially contaminated pet food products were recalled after it “was found to be a contaminant in wheat gluten used in those products”––but not before it caused disease and death in pets throughout North America.

“It is presumed that melamine was intentionally added by suppliers in China to falsely elevate the measured protein content and, hence, the monetary value of these products.” And the pet food scandal was just the writing on the wall. The next year, “melamine was discovered to be the cause of an outbreak of [kidney] stones and [kidney] failure” affecting hundreds of thousands of infants and young children throughout China, when melamine was used to falsify the protein content of infant formula and powdered milk.

In the U.S., you can find it in food packaging, and sneaking its way into animal feed, but those using melamine dishware can be exposed directly, migrating straight into the food upon exposure to heat. So yeah, cooking spoons and dishes made out of melamine are not suited for microwaves and cooking, according to food safety authorities. Okay, but what if you never cook with it, fry with it, or microwave it. What if you just use it to eat out of?

“A Crossover Study of Noodle Soup Consumption in Melamine Bowls” versus the same soup eaten out of ceramic bowls, and then just measure the amount of melamine flowing through their bodies. And they found that “melamine tableware may release large amounts of melamine when used to serve high-temperature foods,” and not even hot foods. “Melamine migration can be detectable from melamine tableware, even [at] low temperatures,” like just warm water. Why do we care? Because the level of melamine you’re exposed to “is significantly associated with kidney function deterioration in patients with early-stage chronic kidney disease,” in which even relatively “low melamine levels may cause a rapid decline in kidney function.” So, I would suggest glass, ceramic, porcelain, or stainless-steel tableware instead.

What about polyamide utensils? All sorts of different plastic materials are used in kitchen utensils. Polyamide is typically used for spatulas or ladles due to their high heat and oil resistance. “However, components of this plastic can migrate from the utensils into the food and consequently be ingested by consumers.” Out of 33 utensils tested, nearly one in three exceeded the upper safety limit. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment “recommends that consumers keep contact with food as brief as possible when using polyamide kitchen gadgets,” especially above the temperature at which like hot tea or coffee might be served at.

A different survey of black plastic kitchen utensils found about a third contaminated with flame retardant chemicals. Why? Because it may be made from plastic recycled from electronic equipment that was impregnated with the stuff. And then, should you dip it in oil, the chemicals can trickle out, suggesting using such “utensils for frying [could] lead to considerable dietary exposure.”

And, the black dye itself in some black polyamide utensils can leach out as well. Eventually, with enough use, the levels drop, but it may take the equivalent of boiling the utensils for about 100 hours before the dye leaking would approach safety levels. Probably just easier to use utensils that are wooden or stainless steel.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

This is the last in a series of videos on cookware. If you missed the others, check out Are Aluminum Pots, Bottles, and Foil Safe? and Stainless Steel or Cast Iron: Which Cookware Is Best? Is Teflon Safe?

It may not be safe to microwave melamine, but what about microwaving in general? See Are Microwaves Safe? and The Effects of Radiation Leaking from Microwave Ovens.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

83 responses to “Are Melamine Dishes and Polyamide Plastic Utensils Safe?

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  1. What of these high-temp flexible baking sheets we use to avoid oiling a pan. I’m not sure of their composition.

    Are they safe? Are there studies.

    Yes I don’t use non-stick pans or plastic cooking utensils. I do use plastic brushes and synthetic sponges and 3M scrubbies for cleaning my cookware and dishes, because no one has suggested that they are unsafe…yet.

    1. Those sheets are silicone. While the FDA does indeed say that food grade silicone is safe and will not react with other materials or release hazardous compounds when heated, there are some studies that question how stable silicone is when exposed to extreme heat. These studies have found that small amounts of certain compounds called siloxanes can leach from silicone when it is exposed to both fat and temperatures over 300F. While the amount of siloxanes leaching is very small, these compounds have been linked to reproductive impairment, liver changes, and some may be even be endocrine disrupting.

      In short, food grade silicone is considered safe but it would be advisable to avoid placing in high heat situations (ie: oven and high heat dishwashers) until more studies are conducted.

      On another note they ruin cookies.
      https://www.seriouseats.com/2019/10/problems-with-baking-cookies-on-silicone.html

        1. I have been using parchment paper to avoid the food from touching aluminum cookie sheets and not needing oils to prevent sticking. Why isn’t this info on the box. Any vendors not use Silicon, just paper? I even use salt without caking agents to avoid chemicals, Now this! This makes me mad!

      1. Reality bites,

        I think that many hair conditioners contain siloxanes. Other cosmetics, too:

        “ Siloxanes are a group of chemicals that are, as the name suggests, derived from silicone are typically used in cosmetics and hair products to soften the skin, smooth out imperfections and moisturize an otherwise dry canvas. Cyclomethicone and siloxanes are used in cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten.” http://thetoxicfreefoundation.com/database/ingredient/siloxane

        I don’t know if it can be absorbed through the skin.

    2. Dr Greger I am a vegan chef. I attended a Saladmaster demonstration whereby a small amounothert of baking soda was added to a couple of inches of water and brought to boil in any given pot in my clients kitchen, including copper, cast iron, teflon, all qualities of stainless steel, of course aluminium, painted enamel, and all and any other material selection. 100% Titanium being Saladmasters product was included. Of all tested before me, only Titanium passed the taste test. TASTELESS!! I was an active witness. A bitter undesirable metal-like taste of more or lesser degree proved itself in each and every pot. The Titanium did NOT! No one talks about this matter. Would you please help me understand why and how I can learn of more studies on this matter observed, if any? Thank you

      1. Pure titanium is a poor conductor of heat and electricity. It heats unevenly. Consequently, food often sticks to the surface. That’s why titanium cookware usually has some kind of non-stick coating Titanium itself is thought safe but whether titanium cookware is safe depends upon the chemical composition of the non-stick coating

    1. Well how do we flip pancakes in our ceramic cookware without scratching the ceramic surface? Wooden spoons are fine for stir frying and such but flipping is another story.

      1. Exactly. I like mine and am keeping it. I don’t really fry anything but use mine to lift things around on ceramic and parchment paper. So probably not measurable leaching. Anyway, public health is about balancing risk and benefit. Not about eliminating all risk.

        1. Yes, my ceramic cookware is glorious. And I have been using the ‘black plastic’ spatulas and notice when I cook pancakes they slightly melt on the surface of the pan. So going to switch to silicone.
          So thankful for Dr Greger’s ‘safety inspired’ rather than profit motivated information.

      2. I make all kinds of flatbreads and pancakes and seldom even need a spatula. Toss and catch. While it does take practice it works beautifully once mastered.
        Plantbasedcookingshow.com has a vegan lentil flatbread made with just red lentils and water that is amazing.

  2. Can you PLEASE stop putting so much inflection on your words. I can’t follow along with the pauses and then really quick speaking. I watched you on Plant Pure Nation and the calm normal way you spoke was wonderful! Please do your videos in that manner! I love your information and think you are fantastic, but I just can’t listen anymore.

    1. Kristi, I now read the transcripts (found below the videos) instead of watching the videos unless there are lots of graphs or something I want to see. I love Dr. G but I can’t watch him anymore for similar reasons.

      1. most people are too nice to say anything, especially since Dr. G seems like a nice guy and the info he gives us is great…but since the subject has been raised. his (high-pitched) voice and inflections are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I finally had to stop watching the videos, and returned only when he began offering transcripts. I’m happy there are fans of his presentations, because he obviously enjoys doing them, but I’m thrilled there are now transcripts for those of us who just want the info. sorry, Dr. G! nothing personal…

  3. I’m so glad my mom sent me this. My son had multicystic dysplastic kidney disease. His right kidney is non functional. No probs with the left. He’s 10 and healthy. But this is very helpful for me. It’s difficult to get much information on my son’s condition because it’s so uncommon. This helps so much.

  4. how about polypropylene, used as bowls for food, at or a bit above room temperature? it can also be used to microwave food, but is this problematic?

  5. I use wooden spoons for stirring and scraping when cooking. But the wood spoons just don’t hold enough for dipping and filling a bowl, so then I go to stainless steel.

    1. There are some amazing wooden utensils out there. Look up ‘wooden ladle’.

      The big blue box store has ……Home Kitchen Tableware Hook End Design Brown Wooden Soup Ladle 11.4″…… for twelve bucks.

      1. The thing about a lot of wood and particularly bamboo utensils is that they are layers glued together and then carved. Look carefully to see if you are buying a utensil carved from one piece of wood or if it is glued in layers and then shaped. I have seen nothing about the safety of the glue used in those plys. There are good solid one-piece utensils out there, but be careful when bargain shopping.

  6. Owning melamine is just asking someone to assume ‘plastic is plastic’ and putting it into a microwave, destroying both the dish and food. It is an outdated material that does not belong in the kitchen.

    1. As a batch cooker, I don’t own any dishes or storage containers that can’t be microwaved. I have Corelle for taking outside on the porch. So much easier than remembering what can go in the microwave and what can’t.

    1. My gastroenterologist told me that increasing fiber helps hemorrhoids by providing bulk for peristalsis (the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestine or another canal, creating wave-like movements that push the contents of the canal forward) so that you ‘push’ less while on the toilet which makes things worse.

    2. as to bran and hemorrhoids: I’ve never touched bran since becoming WFPB, but also I haven’t had any hemorrhoidal issues since changing either (it was an occasional issue before). Almost everything I eat now has plenty of fiber in it.

      The only supplemental fiber I use is flaxseed meal, which is beneficial far beyond the fiber content, and I consider a whole food being only a ground seed and not otherwise processed. We get more from flaxseed because it is ground.

  7. My brother drives deaf-blind clients to medical appointments, errands, etc. They prefer plastic containers to use in the microwave, because if dropped the containers won’t break. They can’t see shards of glass to clean up.

    What would be a recommendation for these folks to safely use in a microwave that would also be unbreakable?

    1. Dr. J,
      Sometimes, breakable containers can be avoided. I will quarter a potato and toss the pieces in the microwave without a container. The blind can be quite capable of taking care of themselves. I know; I was with a blind girlfriend for a few years. She completed her bachelors and masters blind. She used seeing eye dogs to get around campuses and across intersections. If there is something a blind person can’t do, they get help from family and friends.

    1. SK,
      Shellac is a bio degradable, food coating that has been used forever. It is produced by an insect and used to coat candies and furniture and other things. Alcohol is the solvent used to carry it.

    1. @Mr Fumblefingers

      Off-topic, as well.

      I also recently watched several Nathan Pritikin videos on YouTube. He indeed was a pioneer. I especially got a kick out of the video when a rather young Dr. McDougall was most curious. Seeing and hearing them together was brilliant.

      If perchance you missed this one, look for it on YouTube. I’d provide a link for you but I didn’t take notice.

  8. Do silicone utensils also expose us to this kind of danger? Polyamide Plastic Utensils seem to come in many colors. I already disposed of my black plastic utensils. I guess we need to know what to use in our nonstick pans.

    1. Deb,
      I watched the video. The processing plant that produces streams of income is the ticket to sanitation. I live by a lake that my rural water supplier gets its water from. I am interested in emergency preparation in case my supplier shuts down. I called them to find out how I can treat my own water but was advised against it. I’m thinking the white powder in the video has chlorine in it. I know hikers and the military have ways of treating water, even waste water. I will look for a simple and cheap way to do this. Boiling is one way but seems more difficult than putting a packet of powder in the water. Gates has been on the waste trail for years and funded a MIT challenge study where they were using microwaves.

  9. Hello! I have a question not related to the video. Taking B12 gives me really bad acne, what can I do? I’ve tried small weekly doses and different types of B12 but the problem persists.

        1. Hi Adam – if you’ve tried switching B12 forms and types then the “cause” may not be B12 in and of itself.
          Here’s what cured my acne: Wash with Neutrogena Acne soap. It’s a liquid in a pump bottle. You can get less expensive products that contain the same ingredient (active) which is 2% salysalic acid (an exfoliant). Wash with that every day for 2-3 minutes (the length of the active ingredient on your skin). This dries your skin ( or may not if you have a lot of oil – don’t know your age). But, regardless, next add your low-no oil moisturizer. If you skin is still dry, add a light peptide cream. I use Andalou Naturals Goji Peptide Perfecting Cream. This replaces the fats in skin that the salysalic acid in the wash washes away. The point in this regimen is to exfoliate (Acne wash), moisturize (moisturizer), and protect the skin ( a finishing peptide). I have used this regimen for over 2 decades. Although I am almost 70 and live in a very harsh environment (Southwest) my skin is in great shape. And no acne – this is what cured it. Also, I got this regiment from a New York City dermatologist who sells her own product which is WAY expensive. I use Neutrogena which provides the same result but with much less expense.
          Hope this helps you or someone else.

    1. Adam,
      Dr Greger has a new webinar slated for June 26th on the topic of B12. Read about it here https://nutritionfacts.org/2020/05/26/my-new-book-how-to-survive-a-pandemic-is-out-now/

      As you’ll see, b12 supplements and acne will be part of the discussion. I had to stop b12 pills altogether (my b12 tested in higher range anyway) for some months but continued with daily consumtion of products containing
      small amounts of b12. It should be an interesting webinar!

    2. Hi Adam – Thanks for your question! Another B12 supplement option is receiving a B12 injection, which is something you’ll need to talk to your doctor about. This may be worth having that discussion if you tried multiple oral supplement options already.

      In addition – If you plan your meals well, you can also get adequate vitamin B12 from eating enough B12-fortified foods on a daily basis. It is recommended to consume at least 1 serving of a vitamin B12-fortified food that contains at least 25% of your Daily Value (this information can be found on nutrition labels or looked up online) at ALL 3 of your meals daily. For example, 2 teaspoons of a vitamin B12-fortified nutritional yeast (such as Red Star brand) could count as 1 of your 3 daily servings of vitamin B12, and can simply be sprinkled onto foods. (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/daily-source-of-vitamin-b12/).

      Vitamin B12 can also be found in other foods fortified with B12 like some breakfast cereals, plant milks, and soy products. Always check the label to ensure the product has been fortified and contains at least 25% of your Daily Value of vitamin B12 per serving. It is important to obtain these 3 servings of B12 daily to prevent deficiency from occurring over time if you are not taking a supplement. I hope this helps give you some insight!

      Dr. Greger also has an upcoming webinar on the Latest Recommendations for Vitamin B12. Details and registration here: https://bit.ly/B12webinar2020

      Here are a few additional resources to check out:
      https://veganhealth.org/vitamin-b12-vegan-sources/
      http://www.choose-healthy-food.com/brenda-davis-interview-vitamin-b12-foods.html

      -Janelle RD (Registered Dietitian & NutritionFacts.org Health Support Volunteer)

  10. What about melamine plates/bowls used only for room-temperature or cold food, like fruits/veg? Is there still an issue, or is it only with higher temps?

  11. Hello! I have ibs and suffer from bloating all my life! Beans make me so sick, all broccoli and cabbage, etc! I train intensely and need protein to recover! Please help to people with IBS

    1. Hi Katy,
      It is a great idea to consult with a dietitian to make sure you have a nutrient rich diet plan.
      We know common dietary triggers for GI symptoms in people with IBS are poorly digested short-chain carbohydrates, known collectively as FODMAPs. FODMAPs is an acronym used to describe a group of sugars and fibers that are rapidly fermented by our gut microbes and can drag water into the intestine, contributing to pain, cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. One of the FODMAP subtypes, galacto-oligosaccharides are abundant in legumes, a key source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. To break down the acronym in further detail:

      F: fermentable
      O: oligosaccharides (beans, wheat, onion, garlic, artichokes, chicory root extract)
      D: disaccharide (lactose in cow’s, sheep and goat milk)
      M: monosaccharide (fructose, when in excess of glucose in a food such as: apples, pears, asparagus, watermelon, mango, honey and agave syrup)
      A: and
      P: polls (stone fruits: plum, peach, pear; apples and pears; watermelon, cauliflower and mushrooms)

      Some ideas for Low FODMAP vegan protein sources include:

      Firm tofu (silken tofu is high in FODMAPs), tempeh (read ingredients and avoid those with wheat, barley, onion or garlic or other FODMAP ingredients)
      ¼ cup canned chickpeas or ½ cup canned lentils per meal (canned chick peas and lentils have less FODMAPs than dry beans, soaked and cooked)
      Nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters (avoiding high FODMAP containing pistachios and cashews)
      Quinoa and buckwheat offer a protein boost too.
      Lacto-ovo vegetarians can enjoy lactose free yogurt and milk, hard, aged cheeses and eggs, as they are all low FODMAP.
      The FODMAP content of beans varies from variety to variety: Black beans (canned) have moderate amounts of FODMAP, a ¼ cup portion may be tolerated per meal while kidney beans are higher in FODMAPs and generally excluded on the low FODMAP diet.
      Please consult with a dietitian because being on restrictive diet for too long can cause some form of deficiency. Kate Scarlet is a dietitian who works in this area of Digestive issue.
      https://www.katescarlata.com
      Dr Greger has some information on this topic too.
      https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/fodmaps/

  12. I am big fan of NutritionFacts.org, Dr. Michael Greger’s work and have read almost all his books. Does anyone know about any other books that Dr. Michael Greger would recommend? Also, wondering what has been there in his reading list, besides medical journals?

    Thanks and best regards

  13. I remember the toddler plates when my daughter was small. They were probably melamine. One day I noticed an odd smell when I pulled it out of the dishwasher, I realized something wasn’t right. I was probably still using Teflon then. No wonder millennials are having issues. That and roundup etc.

  14. not sure if this was covered in discussion, but just how does adding melamine increase the measurement of protein? …Or is it as simple as whats let over after carbs and fats must equal protein?

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