Filed Under:  U.S. & World

Warning: Plastic Kitchen Utensils Can Contain Formaldehyde

Contributed by on May 19, 2011 at 11:09 am

Plastic Kitchen Utensils (Photo Courtesy Imago)

What may appear to you and me as harmless plastic, may in fact be harming our families.

Plastic kitchen utensils and plates, bowls, cutlery and other kitchen utensils are actually often made of melamine resin.  Melamine can release formaldehyde if they are heated above 70 ° Celsius.   This according to reports from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.

Therefore, if you use a plastic spoon which contains melamine for cooking or frying, you may be exposing yourself to an increased health risk.   Equally harmful is when melamine tableware or plates are heated in the microwave oven.

Formaldehyde can go into food

Melamine resins are plastics which are made from the raw materials of melamine and formaldehyde.  The materials are hard and unbreakable, have a smooth surface and are the basis of these material properties used include the production of commodities such as cooking spoons and utensils.   Studies of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment have now shown that the use of products made of melamine resins and cooking in microwave ovens increased the amounts of melamine and formaldehyde which are released into the food.
Never Heat Melamine Tableware Over 70 degrees

“The crucial point is the famous 70 degree and duration of warming”.   Typically when you roast your food can reach temperatures up to 180 degrees.   At such temperatures the melamine can pass a health risk levels of the substances in food.   Studies of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment show that the acceptable limits are clearly exceeded.   Another possible health risk they pointed out was through the inhalation of formaldehyde which may be released.

Increased Risk when Exposed to Acid

“Especially Dangerous is the combination of heat plus acid” said director Kundke.   This is because the contact of melamine with acidic foods can lead to decomposition of the material. “This applies to almost all vegetables,” says the Director.   “If for example you are cooking tomato soup and put the spoon in the hot soup can for twenty minutes that is all you would need to release the formaldehyde”.   Therefore,  kitchen utensils which contain melamine should not be used for cooking, baking or for heating in the microwave.  It is safe to use of them at temperatures below 70 ° Celsius.  The same is true if plastic cups containing melamine are used to hold hot beverages.

Beware of broken surfaces

Typically there is no health risk when placed in the dishwasher as “There, the 70 degree level is usually not exceeded.”

If the utensil is damaged or losing it’s luster, it may be an indication that the material has already changed. If articles made of melamine are losing their luster, or if the surface is otherwise damaged, the decomposition process is accelerated and more likely to release the formaldehyde.   These utensils should be thrown out as soon as possible to keep food formaldehyde-free.

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