Melamine-ware used by local food premises is safe to use, Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety (CFS) found in a risk assessment study.

Tableware products made of melamine-formaldehyde resins (generally described as melamine-ware) were widely used around the world due to their durability, good chemical and heat resistance and low cost.

Since China’s melamine scandal two years ago involving infant milk products, the public has been concerned the level of melamine and formaldehyde that may migrate from melamine-ware to food.

 “Melamine is of low acute toxicity and formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment and can be found naturally in small amounts in a wide range of raw foods such as fruit and vegetables, meat and fish,” a CFS spokesman said.

“The major safety concern is whether there is excessive migration of the melamine and formaldehyde from tableware made of melamine-formaldehyde resins,” the spokesman added. 

A total of 61 melamine-ware samples commonly available for use on local food premises obtained either from local food premises direct or from manufacturers or suppliers known to supply such products to local food premises were collected and tested between May 2009 and February 2010. 

Test results showed that the levels of both melamine and formaldehyde found in the samples were all below the respective limits specified by the Mainland and the European Committee (EU) testing methods. 

Besides, no overt difference in the concentration range of melamine and formaldehyde migration among the various categories, brands or sources was noted. 

“The study results also showed that even under experimental conditions that simulated the worse-case scenario, all melamine-ware tested had low levels of migration of melamine and formaldehyde which were well below the Mainland and EU specified migration limits, indicating that all melamine-ware samples tested were of the quality suitable for food use,” the spokesman added.

Based on the results, the melamine-ware samples tested were not expected to pose health concern to consumers under normal food use. 

Despite these satisfactory findings, people are advised to heed the following advice when using melamine-ware: 

Follow  product specifications and instructions 
in using melamine-ware.

  • Do not use melamine-ware with a broken or damaged surface. 

  • Do not heat or cook foods in melamine-ware. 

  • Do not use melamine-ware in microwave oven or conventional oven.

  • If melamine-ware is to be used for holding hot deep-fried foods, cool the foods down before putting in the melamine-ware. 

  • Do not use abrasive detergent and cleaning tools or strong chemicals that will damage the surface while cleaning. 

The Hong Kong Center for Food Safety also urged the food trade to obtain melamine-ware from reliable manufacturers and suppliers, and use melamine-ware of suitable quality to serve food to customers.