Can you microwave Melamine? (Serious Safety Concerns)

What if I told you that all the time, money, and energy you spend on buying organic, exercising, and checking food labels for harmful chemicals is a bust!

Yes, it’s true. If you care about your health and what you are putting in your body, you should also be mindful of what and how you serve your food. It may be surprising,  but it’s true.

The quality of your cookware and serve ware is just as important and impactful to your health as what you eat or apply to it.

A quick Google search will show you how harmful non-stick Teflon cookware can be to our hormonal health, why aluminum is harmful and why you shouldn’t be cooking in it.

Keeping that in mind, to answer your question about how to use melamine in the microwave, you will need to analyze this with a bird’s eye view.

Can you microwave Melamine?

No, you can’t microwave melamine, simply because it’s not safe for your health.

While melamine products may be built to withstand heat and prevent any kind of distortion in their shapes. They are not made to be microwaved with food on them, because of the danger of leaching their chemicals onto the food.

However, the FDA states that you can use melamine to serve your food just not heat it, as the risk of melamine seeping into your food without heating is very low.

Why can’t you microwave melamine?

You might’ve heard melamine being marketed as a safe option for dinnerware because it is heat resistant, fire-resistant, and won’t explode while using, unlike some glass-based serve ware. But despite all that, the very nature and chemicals with which it is manufactured, pose a risk to your health.

Melamine is made from a substance called “melamine-formaldehyde resin” which can make its way into your food when it comes into contact with it at high temperatures ( like 160 ° F or higher), or in foods with an acidic nature. The more acidic the food and the higher the temperature it is heated to, the greater the amount of melamine that can be transferred into the food.

While the effects of this cross contamination might not be immediately evident, long-term usage of melamine in the microwave can present many health-related issues.

Is there any melamine that is microwave safe?

As per my knowledge no, there isn’t any kind of melamine that is microwave-safe. Quite a bummer I know.

But what is that I hear you say? Plastic comes in a microwave-safe version, so why doesn’t melamine? Well, even microwave-safe plastic doesn’t remain safe and can become problematic over time, especially if it starts to show signs of degradation like scratches, distortion, and discoloration.

The more the plastic has been used and scratched, the more likely it is to leak harmful chemicals into the food. So you have to ditch your microwave-safe plastic containers at some point too. Or better yet, be environmentally friendly and repurpose them as I have by using them either as pots for an indoor kitchen garden or keeping your kids’ small arts and crafts supplies organized.

Are melamine and plastic the same?

Think of melamine as plastic’s older and much prettier sister. Related but not entirely the same! Melamine is a component used in certain plastic tableware. 

In the same way that you don’t microwave food in plastic containers because of the danger of the chemicals from plastic leaching into your food, you shouldn’t microwave food in melamine containers.

To make melamine tableware, melamine is usually combined with formaldehyde (just the presence of this chemical alone should be enough to raise your red flags) to make a melamine resin which can then be molded under intense heat and pressure into multiple shaped tableware. 

While you may think that since melamine is made under intensely high heat, it should be considered heat safe, or safe enough to go into the microwave. That unfortunately doesn’t hold true. 

While melamine plates, bowls, and cups may be extremely durable and crack-proof but they are not cleared by the FDA to be used in microwaves.

What are the alternatives to melamine dinnerware?

I sympathize with your situation here. Melamine comes in an assortment of colors and finishes, from resembling wood to ceramic, all at the fraction of the price and with the promise of lasting for a lifetime.

But what good is that when it can be a potential health hazard. Sure you can use it to serve cold sandwiches and anything that doesn’t require heating. But with other safer options, like glass and ceramic available on the market, I would prefer to choose those.

What problems can melamine cause if people eat or drink food contaminated with it?

Regularly eating foods contaminated with melamine may increase your chances of developing kidney stones, kidney failure, high blood pressure, or even kidney infection. 

While the FDA maintains that melamine can be safe to use “under certain guidelines” tests done by The Taiwan Consumers’ Foundation of tableware showed that when melamine was manufactured, it left behind a small residue of the melamine compound. Which could remain in the tableware made and, could slowly, over time, make its way to foods that come into contact with it, proving it to be hazardous to health.

This has been verified by the FDA as being especially true for foods with an acidic nature (most citrus fruits, tomatoes, carbonated drinks, etc.)

Signs of melamine poisoning:

Signs of melamine poisoning may include:

  • Irritability
  • blood in urine
  • little or no urine
  • signs of kidney infection
  • high blood pressure.

How to Properly Use Melamine without the microwave?

As per the research conducted by the FDA (over melamine transmission from serveware to food that comes into contact with) melamine contamination risk is so low that it poses no health risks. The exception is acidic foods and foods that have been heated on them, however, it’s better to err on the side of caution and stick with ceramic and glass. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind while using melamine:

  • Avoid melamine tableware like the plague, when serving food to young children and babies because they are the most susceptible to melamine exposure since they are in various stages of developmental growth.
  • Never heat or serve hot food or drinks in melamine, including in the microwave. Only use either glass or ceramic as they are the safest options.
  • Never serve highly acidic foods and drinks, like citrus, tomatoes, or carbonated beverages in melamine containers, because this increases the chances of melamine migration. This risk increases twofold when heating acidic foods in melamine.
  • If you already have melamine glasses, only use them for serving cold or room temperature drinks (except for carbonated drinks which are acidic and pose a risk of melamine migration into your drinks).
  • Salads, sandwiches, biscuits, and other foods of the sort that don’t need to be heated, can be easily served on melamine bowls or be carried on melamine trays and plates.

Interested in saving the planet? Stop using melamine!

Besides the potential health risks for humans that come with using melamine, another very good reason to stop using melamine is that melamine isn’t recyclable.

Yup just like its evil sister Plastic, melamine won’t decompose even when you toss it after years of use. That means it will stay around polluting the health of our planet in landfills.

But fret not if you’ve already got a piece or two in your home. Get creative and try to reuse your melamine dishes before trashing them. Use a bowl to hold jewelry, or keep plates under potted plants to catch extra water. You could even hang up a few colorful plates on your wall as wall decor or use big bowls as a birdbath.

Conclusion: 

Food and drinks should not be microwaved in melamine containers as they might leach chemicals into your food. If needed, heat food on a ceramic or glass container, and once cooled to room temperature transfer to your melamine serveware. However, if the food needs to be served hot, it would be better to serve it in a glass or ceramic dish instead of melamine.

Related Article: Are Chipotle Bowls Microwave Safe?