European Commission carries out checks on dangerous bamboo products

European Commission carries out checks on dangerous bamboo products
Set of wooden kitchen spoons and spatulas laid out in a neat row on a wooden cutting board or table. Credit: Free Images Live

The European Commission has carried out thousands of coordinated controls in 21 Member States to ascertain how many kitchen utensils are made of bamboo fibres and other elements such as melamine.

This composition has been banned since February 2021. The reason: mixed with melamine, bamboo fibres react too much to heat and fat. Melamine molecules can therefore mix with food and can have harmful consequences on the urinary tract and kidneys.

Belgium is one of the 21 European countries that have participated in this coordinated control effort. The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) in Belgium carried out 128 inspections in 2021. Just over 16% were unfavourable.

"We have achieved the objective of flushing out sales of problematic products,” assures the spokesperson of the FASFC, Aline Van den Broeck in an interview with RTBF. “It is often found in the plates and cutlery made for children," she says.

Bamboo-based risks

When making these products, bamboo fibres are bonded with chemical elements such as melamine and formaldehyde. These are two components that can be harmful to our health, according to Foodwatch, an association specialising in food monitoring. "Formaldehyde is recognised as being carcinogenic to humans while melamine can affect the urinary tract or kidneys," Foodwatch said in a statement.

These can become particularly dangerous products if they come in contact with the acidity of food and heat because chemical exchanges are then more likely.

The FASFC offers a simple visual assessment to avoid using utensils that are dangerous to health, such as plates.

"If the plate has a wooden appearance - even with a layer of varnish - but we see that it is a plate made of 100% bamboo, there is no problem in this case," says Aline Van den Broeck. "On the other hand, if the plate is coloured and has a more plastic appearance, an element of doubt is allowed. If it's a mixture, it's best to avoid."

More transparency needed from watchdogs

Foodwatch welcomes the checks carried out by the Commission but asks the control bodies for more transparency: "The European Commission communicates on the products intercepted and recalled,” it said in its statement. “It is therefore necessary to carry out public recalls in order to inform as many people as possible."

In Belgium, non-compliant products controlled by the FASFC are communicated and published on the agency's website.

If your cup has a plastic appearance and it is stipulated that there is bamboo in it, do not panic, according to the FASFC: "You can continue to use it as long as you do not put anything hot in it and wash it in the dishwasher."

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