Bamboo fibres are used as fillers together with polymer melamine or other polymers. No matter how small their content, all melamine products are considered plastics and thus must comply with Regulation (EU) 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. Bamboo fibres are considered an additive as stated in Article 5 of Regulation (EU) 10/2011 and are not included in Attachment 1 of this Regulation and are therefore illegal on the market.
In the past, these products were already regularly checked. As a result, many reports were made on the specific migration limits of melamine/formaldehyde as stipulated in Regulation (EU) 10/2011 being exceeded. Adding fibres to plastics makes the material more porous, which increases the risk of higher migration of, e.g. melamine/formaldehyde. The "Bundesinstitut für Risikobevertung (BfR)" conducted a study on the stability of tableware made of melamine and bamboo fibres. These products showed stability problems; the migration of melamine and formaldehyde after the third migration continues to increase. Furthermore, the BfR states that containers made of melamine-formaldehyde resin such as "coffee to go" cups made of bamboo products are unsuitable for hot drinks.
The European Commission published the summaries and conclusion of the discussion held in the Expert Working Group on Food Contact Materials on their website. This document explains the 3 main problems with these products. (https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/cs_fcm_bamboo_wg-201906.pdf)
· Bamboo is not included in Attachment 1 of Regulation (EU) 10/2011
· Possible exceedance of SML (specific migration limit) of melamine and formaldehyde
· Misleading advertising with claims such as biodegradable, organic, bio...
Following this discussion, the European Commission issued a mandate to EFSA to investigate whether bamboo could fall under the substance category of wood flour and fibre. However, EFSA concluded that the substance "wood" could no longer be considered safe. (https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.2903/j.efsa.2019.5902). A new evaluation will have to be submitted for each type of wood and each use thereof. As wood as a substance was on the market legally and because it will now be removed from Attachment 1, the Commission will provide a transition period during which the industry can submit dossiers to EFSA.
Given all these elements, plastic products containing bamboo or other natural fibres not listed in Attachment 1 of Regulation (EU) 10/2011 may not be sold in the European and Belgian markets. If companies wish to continue selling these substances in the future, they must submit a dossier to EFSA for evaluation so that they can be placed on the positive list. When preparing this dossier, the EFSA's opinion on the substance wood (see above) and the authorised substance "ground sunflower seed hulls" may be taken into account.
Please note that products made of bamboo or wood only, possibly with a varnish layer or glued, are allowed and fall under Regulation 1935/2004 and the Royal Decree of 11 May 1992.
The use of products already purchased by consumers can be continued. However, we recommend strictly following the user instructions of these products and not heating the objects (e.g. in the microwave) or using them for hot liquids such as tea or coffee. Kitchen utensils are best washed by hand or placed in the upper section of the dishwasher.