Re-useable bamboo melamine cups tested and criticized

German consumer organization finds high levels of melamine and formaldehyde migration from re-useable bamboo-based cups, condemns misleading labeling advertising them as recyclable and eco-friendly

On July 23, 2019, the German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest published an article investigating the concentration of melamine that migrates into drinks from bamboo-based, re-useable cups. The organization carried out tests on twelve re-useable bamboo cups. Each cup was filled with 3% acetic acid and kept at 70 degrees Celsius for two hours to simulate contact with a hot drink such as coffee. This was repeated seven times for each cup. Measurements showed that four of the twelve cups resulted in ‘very high amounts of melamine’ (CAS 108-78-1) after the third filling. In three of the other cups, this occurred after the seventh filling. High concentrations of formaldehyde were also measured.
The article reminds readers that such bamboo cups cannot be made from bamboo alone and rely on the addition of melamine-formaldehyde resin to serve as a glue to hold the bamboo together. It warns specifically against the use of such cups in microwaves and also criticizes manufacturer claims advertising the recyclability and biodegradability of the cups. It explains that as the cups are made with melamine, they will neither degrade in the environment nor within industrial composting facilities for many years. The cups are also not recyclable in traditional material recycling processes. Only waste to energy incineration is an option.

Concerns about migration from bamboo food contact materials and also about marketing efforts labeling them as ‘eco-friendly’ were also published in a recent discussion document from an EU working group (FPF reported). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified melamine as being “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (FPF reported).


Published by Food Packaging Forum

Re-usable bamboo cups tested and criticized

Our Opinion:

Many products labelled as “Bamboo products” use melamine formaldehyde as the binder. The labels on such products are often misleading, with most products not disclosing the presence of melamine formaldehyde. Melamine formaldehyde is known to be carcinogenic and they leach into the food they come in contact with if the operating temperature is greater than 60 Dec C.

Governments need to ensure companies disclose necessary information of the products. Also, consumers need to be educated with the usage guidelines for melamine based products. Due to lack of consumer awareness, many homes and restaurants use melamine tableware products to serve hot food.

The tittle of reports and news articles published by German media on this subject incorrectly puts the focus on bamboo, and not melamine. The titles lead many readers to believe that bamboo is harmful, unless they pay attention to the details provided in the article. We had to correct few Germans and Europeans as a result of their misinterpretation of these articles.