It's Time to Ditch Your Melamine Plates.

It's Time to Ditch Your Melamine Plates.

Melamine for breakfast? No thank you. Yet if you are using melamine dishware your kids could be consuming trace amounts of melamine which has leached into their foods at every meal.

What are melamine dishes? They are the lightweight, brightly-colored plastic dishes sold everywhere for kids often with cute animals on them. Melamine dishes are made from the industrial compound melamine, which when mixed with formaldehyde, forms a resin. This resin is used in many household applications from our kids’ plates to dry-erase boards and floor tiles. Yes, the dishes in your cupboards are the same plastic as laminate flooring.

The FDA gives a pass on melamine for food safety as long as we use the dishes correctly which means we do not expose them to heat like our microwaves or ovens. However, new research from JAMA Internal Medicine reveals that even hot soup or acidic foods, like orange juice, can cause melamine to leach into the foods our kids are eating. Long-term exposure to ingested melamine can cause kidney stones. Melamine when combined with cyanuric acid (as in our plates) "can form crystals that can give rise to kidney stones” and in some cases death. Wait, what?

My overall take is to avoid serving food on anything that is also used for flooring. In our house we use ceramic or paper plates but neither are ideal for casual dining (and the waste of paper plates kills me).

So I thought I could make a better plate. A year ago my design team started working with a new plastic material made from 95% plants - a unique blend of bamboo and corn. Instead of 100% melamine we added only 5%. Why the 5%? I needed a plate that was durable because we know that moms are busy and kids drop things. However less than a teaspoon of melamine is undetectable and won't leach into foods. We also made sure our plates contain no BPAs and are free of phthalates. Soup in one of our bowls? About as safe as eating on a banana leaf. Only without the mess.  

I also learned that the real customer for kids dishes is the kid. My 8-year-old foster grandson loves that we save animals and pick up trash on our walks but he’s still a kid and won’t eat off boring, eco-friendly, neutral-brown plates. I know this because as I was developing the product we went through the neutral-brown, cardboardish-looking plate stage and he refused, preferring the illustrated bugs on our ceramic dishes. Part of our work was developing a plate that kids would love so we partnered with artist Martín León Barreto to make our eco plates pop.

We pay a lot of attention to what we feed our kids, isn’t it time we also consider what we feed them on? Check out your cupboards and consider ditching the melamine for safer alternatives like ceramic or bamboo.