Food FYI: What’s in your bowl of noodles? It may be melamine

A study shows elevated levels of melamine in the urine of those who ate noodle soup from melamine bowls.
(Gina Ferrazzi / Los Angeles Times)

We love a steaming hot bowl of soup -- ramen, pho, beef noodle soup, whatever. But scientists say that if the bowl is made with melamine, the melamine might be seeping into our bodies.

Melamine is a flame-retardant chemical used to make adhesives, industrial coatings and some types of tableware and other utensils. A recent study of a group of soup eaters -- 12 men and women who ate noodle soup in either a bowl made of ceramic or melamine -- showed measurable levels of the chemical additive in the urine of those who slurped out of the melamine bowl. The study by Taiwanese researchers was published in this week’s JAMA Internal Medicine.

Urine samples collected from study participants who ate out of melamine bowls had 8.35 micrograms of the chemical, on average, compared with 1.31 micrograms of the chemical after eating from a ceramic bowl.


Researchers led by Dr. Chia-Fang Wu of Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan say that the amount of melamine released into food and drinks from melamine dishes varies by brand. “Although the clinical significance of what levels of urinary melamine concentration has not yet been established, the consequences of long-term melamine exposure still should be of concern,” they wrote.

The Food and Drug Administration has said that the amount of melamine the public is exposed to via tableware doesn’t pose a health risk. But more exposure is possible when acidic foods are exposed to high temperatures. Don’t use melamine in the microwave.


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