BY AXEL BARRETT
SINCE glasses, salad bowls and other plastic kitchenware are no longer popular, it is tempting to go for their “natural” versions, in particular based on bamboo.
However, in recent months, more than a dozen recalls have concerned childcare articles (sets of plates and glasses), picnic tableware, “lunch boxes” and others.
At the origin of these reminders, the Fraud Repression (DGCCRF) points, in almost all cases, a “migration of components [to] food” and a “chemical risk” . Bad surprise…
Knowing that bamboo is a plant, not a wood, this impacts the manufacture of the material. “While wood can be a unique material, for example cut into the shape of a spoon or salad bowl, bamboo is used in the form of fibers or powder, needing to be agglomerated,” explains Anne Lafourcade, environmental health engineer.
Toxic Components for the kidneys or carcinogenic
As a binder, manufacturers most often use a plastic melamine- formaldehyde resin – what is commonly called “melamine”.
This resin is normally harmless.
But in case of poor quality, it releases its components into food.
However, beyond the authorized migration thresholds, melamine can be toxic to the kidneys, and formaldehyde is recognized as carcinogenic.
Abnormalities affecting more than one in ten bamboo objects
In 2013, a DGCCRF survey of manufacturers, importers and distributors of wooden and bamboo objects found an anomaly rate of 13.8% for bamboo objects alone, “with for example the migration of formaldehyde ” .
Since last year, the countries of the European Union, including France, have increased their controls on “unconventional plastics” products such as melamine bamboo.
In question, a poorly controlled manufacturing process
The results are rather worrying: “For the same object, we observe very variable migration rates from one batch to another”, explains Pascale Lambert, food contact expert at the SGS laboratory in Rouen. The latter published an alert last July on products made from bamboo fiber and melamine.
But why such variability? “There is a poor mastery of the manufacturing process,” continues the expert. As the mixture of bamboo powder and melamine is not homogeneous, the latter remains partly free and thus “escapes” from the material.
On the regulatory side, bamboo is fuzzy
However, there are no regulations governing bamboo powder – nor European regulation n ° 1935/2004 on materials and objects placed in contact with foodstuffs, nor more specific texts on materials such as plastics or others.
In the name of the precautionary principle, shouldn’t we ban the sale of bamboo tableware? Some member countries of the Union, such as Austria, have done so.
France could draw inspiration from this… In the meantime, prefer glass, stainless steel, porcelain or even polypropylene containers.
Beware of microwave heating!
Pure or mixed with other substances, melamine does not tolerate heat well: it releases toxic molecules such as formaldehyde.
Melamine-coated bamboo dishes should, therefore, be prohibited from being heated in a microwave.
Even bamboo mugs are on the hot seat: the tests conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) on 228 types of bamboo cups bear witness to this.
With liquids above 70 ° C, the European limit values for migration of toxic substances were exceeded in 35% of cases. What’s more, the amount of melamine released increases with exposure to hot or slightly acidic liquids like sodas.