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02.12.2019

Bamboo dishes: Beware of heat!

Not every bamboo coffee-to-go cup is suitable for hot food: Products made with synthetic resin release toxic substances, warns the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.

Tableware made of bamboo fibers is an alternative to plastic tableware.
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Bamboo products are considered to be resource-efficient and sustainable. Cups, plates, cutlery, crockery or drinking straws are already made from the plant's woody stem axes or fibers and are available on the market. Especially in view of the forthcoming Europe-wide ban on disposable plastics, alternatives to conventional plastics are becoming more and more important. "From a health risk point of view, however, these products are not always suitable for use as tableware," warns Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

Bamboo cups also affected
Some products declared as bamboo products contain melamine-formaldehyde resin (MFH). If the resin is exposed to higher temperatures, melamine and formaldehyde can migrate from the tableware into hot food - in quantities that are hazardous to health. This is the result of a current risk assessment by the BfR. For the toxicological assessment, data from the state monitoring authorities from 2014 to 2019 as well as BfR's own results on the release of melamine and formaldehyde were used.

Danger only with hot foods

To assess a possible health risk, the tolerable daily intake (TDI) was determined and compared with so-called tolerable daily doses. The result: The formaldehyde release of some "bambooware" cups exceeded the TDI by a factor of 30 for adults. For infants, the tolerable level was even exceeded by a factor of 120. The BFR warns that there is a health risk for adults and children who consume hot food and drinks from these reusable dishes every day.

Heat also corrodes plastics

However, dishes made of MFH are also unsuitable for hot dishes for another reason. In addition to the release of formaldehyde and melamine, BfR long-term tests showed that the heat also corroded the plastic. Thus even larger amounts of melanin and formaldehyde are released from the bamboo dishes than from conventional melamine resin cups.

For cold or lukewarm food, dishes made of MFH such as bamboo dishes are highly suitable, emphasizes the Federal Institute. At the same time, the authorities make it clear that even though bamboo is a natural material, bamboo products containing the synthetic resin are no longer biodegradable.

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