Melamine is a confusing subject. We’ve heard a lot about the melamine-tainted baby formula scandal in China, but reputable US companies like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel cheerfully sell melamine plates and serving pieces for summer. The dishware is supposed to be dishwasher, though not microwave, safe. I’ve looked at a few websites that discuss melamine safety, and there are conflicting opinions (what else is new?). The Livestrong site, which often has useful health info, considers melamine safe as long as not heated or used when cracked, both of which can potentially release toxins into food. But what about the scratches we can’t see, and what about placing steaming-hot food onto melamine plates?
I was thinking of trying bamboo this year instead. It is a natural product and does not pose any potential health risks. I emailed Bambu asking whether their dishes and serving pieces can be reused—they’re kind of expensive to use once and toss, and also it seems wasteful—but they replied that their plates are intended for single-use.
A better option might be Preserve table wear. It’s reusable, dishwasher-safe plastic that contains no melamine or BPA. It may also be a good idea to also pick up a cheap extra set of plain glass plates and bowls for outdoor entertaining, risking the occasional dropped-plate-on-the-stone-patio by one of the kids. Glass just feels and looks nicer, especially when you’ve worked hard on a presenting beautiful food. In any case, going to avoid melamine for now, until I get better information.