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What is Melamine? A Crash Course

By Kristie Turck •  Published 08/07/22 •  4 min read

Last updated on August 20th, 2022 at 12:35 am

First, Melamine was found in dog food, then baby formula, then Mr. Brown coffee, and now, the FDA is recalling Blue Cat Flavor Drinks.  We’ve had many questions about melamine dishware in the past weeks, and we’ve been trying to find as much useful information as possible. So what is Melamine?

Here’s what we know.

What Is Melamine?

Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer that is fire resistant and heat tolerant. Melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure. Uses for melamine include whiteboards, floor tiles, kitchenware, fire retardant fabrics, and commercial filters.

Melamine resin is manufactured by mixing urea with formaldehyde under heat and pressure. The substances begin polymerizing and are forced into a mold to create the desired shape.  The materials finish polymerizing and create a finished product, melamine resin.  This resin is what is used in many kitchen items.,

We uncovered (Thanks for finding this Jaime!) a report from the National Toxicology Program that states,

Melamine resin, a hard thermosetting polymer made from melamine and formaldehyde, is widely used in the US in the form of kitchenware, including plates, bowls, mugs and utensils. Reports in the literature indicate that some kitchenware based on melamine resin leach considerable amounts of melamine monomer. A migration of up to 2.5 mg melamine/ 100 cm2 was observed under conditions that simulate an exposure to hot acidic foods…

I’m sure with enough digging; we’ll find that any migration that occurs is low and “suitable for public safety”, especially if you ask the FDA.  But I am just not comfortable with melamine resin or formaldehyde leaching into my kid’s food when I take such care to give them something healthy.  The NTP confirms that more research is needed. Here is an article from Scientific America to learn more.

Healthy Child Healthy Word’s Janelle Sorensen also found some interesting and disturbing information regarding melamine and has changed her position on using it for kids.  The Soft Landing also posted some great info on Melamine; read that here.  She brings up another good point: it isn’t recyclable. Boo!

Is Melamine Safer Than Plastic?

Here’s the deal, we need more research. Would I serve my family dinner from Melamine dishware? No. I would not. But I also don’t use plastic either. There are plenty of safer alternatives to Melamine and plastic, including silicone, glass, and bamboo.

Is Melamine Dishware Safe?

At SafeMama, we like to sway on the side of safety (even though some of you think we’re just trying to make your life difficult), but we don’t take chances when it comes to kids.  So, for now, we don’t feel comfortable recommending Melamine dishware.

How Can I Limit Exposure To Melamine Leaching?

I can hear you screaming at me already… “Are you kidding me?  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  It was the wrong thing when I thought I was doing the right thing.  Maybe I should just move into a CAVE and eat off the ground!”  That wasn’t you?  Oh, that’s right, it was me saying it to myself. 😉

Before you freak out on me: We’ve compiled a new SafeMama Cheat Sheet of Safer Dishware to aid you in choosing dishes for your wee ones!  It’s a new list that will grow, so check back for new additions.

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