Is Melamine Microwave Safe? (Can Plates/Bowls Be Microwaved?)

Is Melamine Microwave Safe?
What’s for Dinner” by katerha is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The use of melamine dishes and cookware has become increasingly popular due to their durability and affordability.

However, you may be looking to reheat some food on one these dishware, but you might be wondering, is melamine microwave safe?

This is a valid concern, and in this article, we will address the safety concerns surrounding the use of melamine in the microwave.

What is Melamine?

Can You Microwave Melamine?
Melamine target coasters” by planetutopia is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Melamine is a nitrogen-based compound that gained popularity in the early 1900s.

The compound is commonly used to make dishes and cookware due to its durability and heat resistance, as well as its ability to mimic the appearance of more expensive materials such as ceramic or porcelain.

Melamine dishware are favored for their resistance to chipping and breaking, compared to glass and ceramics. Additionally, their affordability makes them a popular choice for manufacturers.

Firstly, Is Melamine a Safe Compound For Daily Use?

For daily use such as eating in, washing and storing food, yes, melamine is pretty safe. The compound can only be molded / shaped at extremely high temperatures, so normal day to day use presents no challenges for melamine. Because it is durable and not easily broken, chipped or damaged, melamine is also pretty safe for even young children to handle. 

So, where do the safety concerns come about? When heat comes into play. Because melamine reacts to heat, many people worry that if melamine products get too hot, the compound can break down and somehow get into their food.

This concern is heightened for those individuals who would potentially microwave food in their melamine dishes or dinnerware.

Can You Microwave Melamine? (Is It Safe?)

Is melamine microwave safe? While some studies have found that melamine is safe for short-term use in the microwave, others have shown that repeated or extended exposure to high temperatures can release harmful chemicals into food.

The FDA in their research has stated that  “Foods and drinks should not be heated on melamine-based dinnerware in microwave ovens. Only ceramic or other cookware which specifies that the cookware is microwave-safe should be used.”

Based on current research and FDA guidelines, it is best to avoid microwaving food in melamine dishes and opt for microwave-safe cookware instead.

Is Microwaving Melamine a Big Safety Issue?

Due to the many concerns surrounding melamine products, several tests were carried out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if the claims were valid. The tests were to determine whether or not melamine was actually migrating into food at high temperatures.

The findings indicated that the concerns were mostly unfounded. While the FDA did find that acidic foods, like oranges and tomatoes could lead to a higher level of melamine being absorbed into some foods, the amount of melamine that was absorbed was very small.

That is, when compared to the levels of melamine deemed toxic, the migration amount was 250 times lower. This means that you can safely microwave food in melamine without being exposed to toxic levels of the compound, but they do not recommend it. 

Regardless of this determination, knowing that some melamine could be migrating into your food, no matter how negligible, is not exactly comforting. So, if you are still concerned, then you can try to avoid using these items in the microwave.

What Does Other Research Say About Microwaving Melamine Dishware?

Despite the FDA’s pronouncements of melamine being safe, other research has produced different findings.

A study published in a 2013 medical review for instance found melamine in the urine of participants who had consumed soup from melamine bowls hours earlier. The melamine detected varied greatly based on the bowls’ manufacturer, which led the researchers to conclude that the effects of melamine still need to be further studied.

They noted that melamine toxicity and its effects were still areas of concern.

Despite these concerns, melamine does have its benefits. Let’s explore these below.

Potential Benefits of Melamine Products

Melamine products are very durable, they can be re-used dozens of times and last for years. They are also inexpensive when compared to other materials. They are also dishwasher safe and relatively easy to clean and care for.

Potential Drawbacks of Melamine Products

Melamine dishware might not be the best alternative to use when heating food in the microwave. The heating process is thought to cause leaching of the compounds in the products and this could possibly be unsafe for the user.

In addition, melamine toxicity is a possibility if rogue manufacturers do not follow strict guidelines for making their products. This leaves the door open for possible adverse effects for health.

Can You Serve Heated Food on Melamine Plates?

If serving hot food on melamine dishes is a concern, it’s important to remember that melamine is known for its durability and heat resistance. So, serving hot food on melamine plates shouldn’t pose a problem.

So, What Are Some Alternatives to Melamine Dishware?

This is a great question, and there are tons of healthier options to melamine. One of the first options is ceramic dishware. While not as durable (easily broken if dropped), ceramics are generally safe to use with heated food. Glass is also a great option that is easy to clean. Enamel dishes as well are safer than melamine.

Generally, you should look out for the microwave safe symbol on your dishware. This is generally printed or stamped at the bottom of dishes and other kitchen items.

Wrapping It Up

Melamine is a common type of plastic compound used in a variety of dishware, kitchen utensils and other products. Like many other compounds in use currently, there are safety concerns about the use of melamine.

The FDA says it is safe, but smaller studies have findings that generate concerns about how the products could lead to health issues. Generally, microwaving melamine or any other plastic product or by-product is not recommended.

As such, stick to using safer options such as glass or ceramics if you need to reheat food in the microwave.

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