Know Your Plastics - Hello, Melamine
Melamine and Commercial Food Applications
Melamine is one of the oldest plastics, first invented in in the 1830s. It's used widely in the home. But is it a practical, economical and safe choice for commercial food handling? Let's take a look at melamine today!
Where does Melamine come from?
Melamine on its own is an organic base material and needs to react with something to become a usable form. The material we commonly see in the home and commercial food premises is actually Melamine Resin, formed through the polymerisation of Melamine and Formaldehyde. Enough technical stuff for now - but it's is important later on. Just remember - melamine we are examining today is actually melamine resin.
Common uses of Melamine
You probably have melamine in may places throughout your home. Melamine plates and cups are very common. It's a very common laminate sheeting on the kitchen cupboards - for example, "Formica" - maybe on a laminate floor. Whiteboards are usually laminated with melamine.
Why Choose Melamine for Commercial Food Use?
When selecting plastics, you will always be selecting from a list of properties and balancing these against costs. Some properties are non-negotiable, while others, in certain applications, are less significant. It's no different with melamine, so let's compare some key properties with other plastics.
- Strength - Melamine is stronger than acrylic, not as strong as Polycarbonate
- Scratch & Stain Resistance - Melamine is the clear winner here
- Dishwasher Safe - yes to Melamine and Polycarbonate, no to Acrylic
- Microwave Safe - if you need the microwave, Polycarbonate is the only option here
- Cost - Acrylic < Melamine < Polycarbonate
You can see here why Melamine is a popular commercial choice for food presentation. It stands up to bumps and scratches and can be used in a commercial dishwasher. It doesn't absorb stains. It will never need to go in a microwave. It's an economical option. A bonus additional property is that it dries very quickly.
Is Melamine Safe for Use with Food?
The short answer for Melamine Resin products is "yes", within their advised parameters - that's why you see it so often in supermarkets and restaurants.
In 2007/08, there were instances of melamine poisoning in China - most famously, contamination of infant milk formulas. Remember earlier, we saw that melamine reacts with something else to form an ingredient? In this case, it was alleged some manufacturers were mixing melamine and cyanuric acid to create melamine cyanurate. The purpose of this was to give the illusion of a high protein content in diluted products. Several people were convicted over this in 2009.
Melamine remains a popular choice for bowls, platters and serving utensils in commercial food applications. Provided you do not need to put the item into an oven or microwave, where it can melt, crack or distort, it is an excellent choice. See Melamine Food Presentation items from Dalebrook in our Food Merchandising Display section.
Steve Nelson believes in incredible retail spaces that sustain communities. Steve is a Retail Display specialist, who has worked with iconic retailers across the globe. As leader of Euroswift Retail Creations in Australia, his focus is delivering solutions and techniques that help retailers develop dexterity at the shop floor, to predict the needs of their local community and react rapidly. Connect with Steve on LinkedIn