Are Bamboo Plates Safe?

are bamboo plates safe

Bamboo plates are getting so popular that the global market is tipped to hit $120.95 million by 2026, which brings up the inevitable question, are bamboo plates safe? And the short answer? Yes, bamboo plates are safe to use.

But the longer answer about the safety of bamboo plates depends on several factors. If you’ve ever wondered if bamboo plates are the safer alternatives to plastic and other materials used in the manufacture of cutlery, here’s everything you need to know.

Are bamboo plates safe, to eat from?

Yes, bamboo plates are generally safe if they come straight from the tree without containing any plastic or other components. For instance, the Banchung used by the people in Bhutan to eat and carry food while going to work in the fields is completely safe. It is hand-woven by local artisans and does not contain any harmful components in the manufacturing process. Read Here: Where to Buy Bamboo Plates? Here are 2 Best Options!

Artisans dye the Banchung in traditional colors, including maroon, yellow, and green, but the dyes come from plant roots and natural vegetation and therefore do not have any harmful effects.

This is not the case with modern bamboo plate manufacturers since the production is commercial. Manufacturers add melamine-formaldehyde resin, or simply melamine, to bind the bamboo fibers to make plates and bowls.

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What makes bamboo plates unsafe?

are bamboo plates safe

According to bioplastics news, adding melamine to bamboo plates does not make it harmful or unsafe. In fact, the FDA approves using melamine for manufacturing plates and other utensils. If melamine is safe, what makes them unsafe when used in the making of bamboo plates? There are two main reasons –

Poor quality manufacturing

Poor quality melamine used in the production of bamboo plates combined with uncontrolled and/or unregulated manufacturing is one of the main reasons that make them unsafe. Melamine and bamboo powder are naturally not homogenous, so when they are mixed together, the melamine resins remain partly free. Read Here: Is Bamboo Dishwasher Safe?

Unless the bamboo powder is mixed with good-quality melamine and manufactured in a highly efficient and controlled setting, the chances of melamine migrating to the food are very high. The migration of formaldehyde from the utensils to the body is toxic to the kidneys and is possibly carcinogenic.

For this reason, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority and the EU have enforced stringent laws on the use of low-quality bamboo products.

Microwaving bamboo plates

Several studies on melamine products show that heating melamine dinnerware up to 160oF or 71oC increases the migration of this resin to the food in the utensil. The migration of these toxic substances from bamboo-melamine containers is even higher if the food is acidic.

According to BfR or the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, products labeled as bamboo ware release even higher levels of melamine and formaldehyde than pure melamine utensils. Under such circumstances, the melamine you ingest can be up to 30% higher than the safe threshold, and it can cause health complications.

Does it mean bamboo plates are unsafe to use at all?

Not really.

Bamboo plates from good companies labeled ‘melamine free’ are usually a good choice. Some companies that genuinely care about sustainability use biodegradable materials to make bamboo plates.

For instance, some bamboo plate manufacturers and brands use sugarcane pulp instead of melamine and other plastic components to produce biodegradable utensils. These bamboo plates have a lot of advantages, including:

  • No harmful effects on health
  • The plates are packaging friendly
  • They are biodegradable and compostable
  • How to make bamboo plates safe for use

Regardless of the bamboo plate’s quality, how you use and care for them greatly affects whether they are safe. Below are some top tips to make your bamboo plates safe for use at all times.

Hand-wash the plates

Hand-washing bamboo plates are one of the best ways to care for them. This is enough to clean them and also prevents any type of breakdown that might occur when you put them in the washer.

Avoid abrasive washing

Avoid using abrasive tools and cleaners while hand washing the bamboo plates or dishes. This is to prevent scratches and any other damage to the dinnerware. Unless the plates are exceptionally greasy, warm water and soap are usually enough to clean them.

Avoid soaking them

Washing the bamboo plates immediately is usually recommended. Soaking the bamboo plates for a long can reduce their lifespan and accelerate their breakdown.

Do not microwave

Microwaving a bamboo plate is one of the worst ways you can treat it. Heating the bamboo container increases the chances of melamine transferring to your food and breaks down its structural integrity over time. Read Here: How to Make Bamboo Spoon and Fork

Treat them occasionally

Use food-grade mineral oil to treat the bamboo plates and bowls once a week or so. This will keep the bamboo containers from cracking or tearing and help them last longer.

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Why are bamboo plates so popular?

are bamboo plates safe

As mentioned earlier in this post, bamboo plates are in the spotlight, and the trend is unlikely to change in the next couple of years. According to a recent report, the key driver in the bamboo plate market is the demand and increase of online catering.

During and after the Covid pandemic, the online catering industry witnessed unprecedented growth. Meal delivery services and cloud kitchens are among the front liners trying to keep up with the demand.

Bamboo plates are more durable than paper plates and are more package-friendly because of their sturdy construction. Delivery companies also prefer bamboo plates for delivering food because it does not absorb moisture, so the food reaches the customer in a fresh and better condition.

In addition, the rising concern for environment-friendly packaging solutions has also increased the demand for bamboo plates in the commercial food and beverage industry.

Because of the high demand for bamboo plates, manufacturers often face the challenge of keeping up with the demand. Distribution is another challenge faced by bamboo plate companies and manufacturers, which can lead to compromised manufacturing quality to keep up with the industry.

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Bottom line

So, are bamboo plates safe? Yes, as long as they are good in quality, you take good care of them and refrain from microwaving them.

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