Melamine plates and cups have been the tableware of choice for many Western families during the last couple of decades, and they are fondly associated with children’s parties and outdoor picnics. According to a new study by researchers at the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan; however, melamine tableware releases toxic quantities of kidney stone-forming melamine when exposed to high temperatures – such as when they’re holding hot food.
The study, which was published in the January 2013 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, monitored the urine samples of two groups of adult volunteers. One group was asked to eat hot noodle soup from a melamine bowl, while the control group was asked to eat the same from a ceramic bowl. Urine samples were collected once before the meal, and six times within the 12-hour period thereafter.
The results showed that the volunteers who ate the soup from the melamine bowls excreted 8.35 micrograms of melamine, while the control group eating from the ceramic bowls excreted only 1.35 micrograms.
“Melamine tableware may release large amounts of melamine when used to serve high-temperature foods,” said the lead researcher at the university, Chia-Fang Wu. “Although the clinical significance of what levels of urinary melamine concentration has not yet been established, the consequences of long-term melamine exposure still should be of concern.”
Melamine poisoning increases the risk of kidney stones
The implications of Wu’s study cannot be underestimated. Melamine poisoning is a very real phenomenon, especially in China, and it has been directly linked to the formation of kidney stones in both humans and animals.
In March 2007, for instance, the Food and Drug Administration discovered traces of granular melamine in pet food products that were sourced from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology in China. Affected animals were discovered to suffer from crystallized melamine in their kidneys and urine, which severely compromised their health.
The connection between melamine and kidney stones made the headlines again in 2008 when several well-known food companies, including Nestle, sold melamine-tainted baby formula to Chinese infants. This led to six deaths and over 50,000 hospitalizations due to severe kidney stone formations.
These incidents, coupled with Wu’s study, lead to an obvious conclusion: Avoid melamine tableware at all costs, especially those sourced from China. Ceramic tableware, including environmentally-friendly and locally-sourced earthenware, are widely available in most countries and are far more attractive than plastic alternatives. Most importantly, though, they minimize exposure to melamine and other toxic chemicals that endanger our health.
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About the author:
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer from the United Kingdom whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website Spiritfoods, through which he helps to promote the world’s healthiest foods, whether they be established superfruits such as mangosteen or lesser-known health supplements like blackstrap molasses.