It's likely that you have some of this dish ware in your cabinets right now… but is Melamine safe? Take a look at the evidence with me and see what other non-toxic, sustainable options I recommend.
I'm super bummed right now you guys… I'm gonna tell you all about it so you can 1. commiserate with me (obviously) & 2. hopefully not make my mistake and get bummed out too.
We've been needing some new dinnerware for a while now. The stuff we have now is Okay (I'll get to that), but there are several reasons I've been in the market for a better option.
Enter yesterday's Costco trip. I love Costco… but seriously, I go in there thinking I just need some basic staples and end up spending SO much more than I had ever planned :/
ie: “You know, I really need this Foodsaver that's on sale for $127… it's usually $150, so I'm saving a ton of money. Then I'll be able to preserve the 9 pounds of this 10 pound bag of organic carrots that will go bad unless we freeze them… so really it's like the Foodsaver is paying for itself!!” (true story… those carrots won't preserve themselves you know.)
Aaaaaanyways. I was at Costco yesterday, and I stumbled across (and by stumbled, I mean purposefully went down the kitchen aisle hoping to find something I couldn't resist) some dinnerware that I thought was really cool. The plates are light-weight, a cute pattern, incredibly sturdy and seem to be unbreakable (great for our two-year old!)… it was seriously the perfect solution for replacing our old worn dishes… $24.99 for a set of 4 place settings… done.
When I got home, (super excited) I showed my husband the awesome new dishes I'd found at Costco, the perfect solution for the terrible plight (please note sarcasm) we've been in with our current dish situation! I'm showing him the beautiful pattern, to which he replies “they look like granny dishes”…
Whatever that means.
I think they're festive… and charming.
…We'll just agree to disagree. 😉
So, I'm showing him these awesome plates, and I happen to see… “Dishwasher safe. NOT Microwaveable safe.”, wait… what??
So I glance at the box to see what these beautiful pieces of art are made out of… (why didn't I check this at the store again? Oh yeah… Foodsavers… and 10 pound bags of carrots.)
“Melamine”… hmm… melamine… haven't I heard of that before but I can't quite place it… is melamine safe? Off to the google I went!
And, what I found bummed me out… it's also why that dinnerware is currently sitting by the door to be returned to the store… and why you're here reading this dramatic blog post about it right now.
Is Melamine Safe or Potentially Toxic? The evidence…
A study published in January 2013 by JAMA Internal Medicine showed that melamine tableware may release large amounts of melamine when used to serve high-temperature foods… hence the “Not Microwaveable safe” warning. Also important to note is that melamine can also leach as a result of acidic foods being served on them.
Melamine made global headlines in 2008 when melamine-tainted powdered milk created in a Chinese dairy plant “killed at least six babies, and caused kidney stones and urinary tract problems in hundreds of thousands of children.” Apparently, “some Chinese dairy plants would add the chemical to milk products so they appear to have a higher protein level.” (source)
So, what is melamine?!
Melamine resin is created by combining melamine with formaldehyde to make a sturdier material.
If you base your safety decisions on what the FDA says, they say melamine is safe… although they do admit that “products with melamine contamination above the levels noted in FDA’s risk assessment may put people at risk of conditions such as kidney stones and kidney failure, and of death. Signs of melamine poisoning may include irritability, blood in urine, little or no urine, signs of kidney infection, and/or high blood pressure.”
Do I think these beautiful melamine dishes will kill me? Probably not… at least, not with normal low-temp, non-acidic use.
Is there a possibility that they could cause kidney issues, high blood pressure, or other complications for myself and my family if used improperly. Yep.
Here's my thought… Why risk it when there are other, safer options out there?!
Melamine is out for us, so I'm still in search of a better option… any suggestions?!
When we got married we got some nice pieces of dinnerware (pictured below) that we've really liked, but have a few key “flaws” that have made them a less desirable option for daily use.
Although we don't use our microwave very often, when we do, it's unpleasant. The plate absorbs all of the heat, leaving the food wanting and the occasional slipping of an unsavory word when reaching to get said plate out of the microwave. The second thing is that they're not exactly toddler (or clumsy mommy) friendly, and have several chips as a result of years of daily use.
Not sure exactly what these plates are made out of… Bed, Bath & Beyond says they are “constructed of durable and long-lasting earthenware”, so I'm assuming they are some sort of stone or maybe clay ceramic?
Either way, clay/stone earthenware is out for us too. So what other options do we have?
Here are a few of the sustainable, non-toxic dish ware options I'm considering now…
Feldspar Porcelain from Ikea
I bought a few of these bowls on a random Ikea trip about a year ago, just to try them out. They've been very sturdy… still not Totally baby-proof, but under supervision they've been just fine. They also don't heat up like crazy in the microwave, so that's a plus. They offer a white and a light, turquoise-blue that I like.
Feldspar is a mineral rock deposit, and when combined with the porcelain ceramic makes for a more durable product. Feldspar porcelain has also been used since the 1800's to make denture teeth (source), so you can imagine that it's pretty sturdy and resistant to chipping.
If you don't have an Ikea near you, you can purchase them online Here.
Bamboo or Wood??
We already have some Pampered Chef bowls that are cool, and have held up well. We mainly use them lightly for serving salads, fruit, or popcorn.
These are not my favorite choice for obvious reason… you can't put them in the dishwasher or the microwave.[/two_third_last]
Honestly, I can't find too many brands or types I would recommend, because most commercially offered bamboo and wood dinnerware is coated with some kind of lacquer finish to enhance the wood's color, prevent water damage and make it “food-safe”. It's debatable whether or not a finish like this is transferable to food, but as far as our daily usage, I'm not going to try to go all-bamboo or anything.
I wouldn't go all crazy about trying to figure out whether or not the finish on your bamboo pieces is safe or not (I mean, it's not like I spent the last 45 minutes doing that or anything… ehem…).
But really, these wouldn't be my first choice anyways, so I'm not gonna worry about it.
Anyone know where we can find safe, natural wood or bamboo dinnerware that's coated maybe with a non-toxic oil or something?
For obvious reasons, this may not be the best bet for us either… given that we really would like to have dishes that are kid-proof, and fuss-free. The more I consider this option though, the more I'm drawn to it… perhaps it's just the clean, clear modern look that glass brings to a dinner table? Or the fact that design-wise it's really pretty versatile?
Either way, if I was going to consider a set of glass dinnerware I'd probably go with these Libbey brand salad & dessert plates, soup & salad bowls, and dinner plates from Amazon. They also have a square design if that suites you better. I would also love to have Duralex or Anchor Hocking, both of which have been around for forever, and would totally be something you could keep an eye out for at garage sales and flea markets.
I've also considered stainless steel, but to be perfectly honest, I don't think most of the options available are all that attractive, and would probably require a little more maintenance to keep it looking nice than I'd care to put my time into. Although, I do really love the 3-piece stainless steel dish set we got from Life Without Plastic!
So, Corelle is what I personally grew up with. It's a relatively inexpensive option. It's tempered glass, an incredibly durable and sustainable option!
The Only thing I would mention is that according to Corelle, they use a “low-lead enamel” on their dishes that have decorations. They state that the enamel is “fired at temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees F, which binds any heavy metals both physically and chemically so that their release is minimized“. (source – emphasis mine)
For this reason I would recommend using plain white Corelle dishware, or one that has minimal decoration on it. This Winter Frost Corelle set on Amazon looks like a nice set… and is certainly versatile!
So, what do you think of the options we're considering?! Anyone have experience they'd be willing to share?
As a side note: Melamine is Not recyclable. If you already have some melamine dishes that you'd like to get out of your kitchen… please try to be creative in utilizing it elsewhere around the house before sending it to the dump. Maybe use it as a decorative jewelry storage bowl, or use a small collection as wall decor? We all (and the environment) will be grateful for your creative re-purposing efforts 🙂