Stainless Steel Dish Set, A Safe Alternative to Melamine and Plastic

February 16, 2009 | 3 Comments

SAFbaby.com has been on a quest to find a safe, non-toxic, durable and unbreakable dish set for children!

But first, find out why we don’t recommend plastic & melamine dish sets:

PLASTICS:

Although there are finally more safer plastic alternatives on the market (BPA-free, Phthalates and PVC-free),  we’re not hooked. Plastic is not very durable, scratches easily and some of them are still made of hormone disrupting chemicals. We’re just not comfortable feeding hot food from a plastic plate.

MELAMINE:

When we learned what makes up the melamine dishware commonly used to feed our babies and children off of, we lost our appetite!

What is Melamine?

“Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant.” *

OK, wait right there!  Already we are asking, “Formaldehyde is a dangerous carcinogenic toxin, so why in the world are we feeding our children from it?”

Although melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure, it still does not sit well with us to feed our loved ones hot and acidic foods from this stuff.  Even if leaching is minimal, the potential IS there, and our babies and children are just way to vulnerable to these harmful toxins.  Especially when there are SAFER ALTERNATIVES available.

Other Uses For Melamine

Then once you learn where else melamine is used, it gets our heads shaking in disbelief a little bit more.  Check this out, which of these items just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest:

  • whiteboards,
  • floor tiles,
  • kitchenware,
  • fire retardant fabrics, and
  • commercial filters.

Humm, we have to say KITCHENWARE!   And although melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure, it still does not sit well with us to feed our loved ones hot and acidic foods from this stuff.  Even if leaching is minimal, the potential IS there, and our babies and children are just way to vulnerable to these harmful toxins.  Especially when there are SAFER ALTERNATIVES available.

Oh, and in case you were curious of the other make up of melamine, it is urea.

Urea, also called carbamide, is an organic chemical compound which essentially is the waste produced when the body metabolizes protein. It is a compound not only produced by humans but also by many other mammals, as well as amphibians and some fish. Urea was the first natural compound to be synthesized artificially using inorganic compounds— a scientific breakthrough.” **  Um, Gross!

Safe Children’s Dish Sets by Sanctus Mundo

So, when we laid our eyes on these medical-grade stainless steel dish sets, by Sanctus Mundo, we were smiling, “bon appetit” again!

I mean honestly, when you spend precious time making your own baby’s food, it sort of defeats the purpose to place something so healthy and good for you on dishes and in bowls made from plastic or formaldehyde!

Stainless steel is very durable, so you can use one or two sets for years to come. When your baby is a little older, you will find that their different sized dishware works perfectly for everything your kid eats, from cereals to soups and pasta.

The Frog Set is more fun for young children. My daughter ONLY wants to eat her spinach from her froggy dish, and hot chocolate that’s not served in her froggy mug is only half as good!
I find the handle very practical, so the plate doesn’t move around when she eats. I also like that the dish has some depth to it, so it’s easier to scoop food with spoon or fork. The frog set is not dishwasher or microwave safe!

The simpler set made of stainless steel only, is safe for the dishwasher and toaster oven. The mug and bowl is much smaller then the Frog set and the plate flatter. We love this set to bring with us on trips. Lost of fast food restaurants (even the healthy ones) serve food on unsafe plastic dishes (and drinks in cups), we ask to have the food served on our stainless steel plate.

These adorable and safe sets are made in Thailand, of high quality, medical grade stainless steel. As you will find out in our Q and A below, not all stainless steel is created equal.   So please make sure you only buy THE SAFEST food/medical-grade stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10, type 304).

A Deeper Look at Stainless Steel Dishware

We still had some questions about their Stainless Steel Dishware, so we had a Q and A with the peeps from Sanctus Mundo.  Great info. here that we are happy to share:

Is your “Frog” Dis Set free of PVC in the outer decorative layer?

The frog set uses As plastic:  Acrylonitrile styrene (AS) or styrene acrylonitrile (SA or SAN) – they all refer to the same plastic resin – is a stable plastic in comparison to the less stable plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, or polycarbonate.

SAN has increased strength, rigidity, toughness and temperature and chemical resistance in comparison to these other plastics.  The incorporation of butadiene (essentially rubber) during the production of AS, leads to ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), which is also a very stable plastic, and is used for such products as LEGO and many pipes for plumbing.

Yes, both contain styrene, but it is in a much more stable form than polystyrene, which is considered unstable and therefore unsafe.  The exterior of the frog set is AS plastic – thus the food/drink are not in direct contact with it.

We made the decision to carry this product because AS is a stable plastic, and because of significant demand from parents for a safe alternative to plastic dishes where the plastic is in contact with the food/drink.  As well, some parents prefer the frog set over the stainless steel dishes because it does not make as much noise when children drop it or throw it on the floor, and/or because they find it more attractive.

There is some controversy about the safety of stainless steel and that it can leach into food, especially when you cut food with stainless steel knife on plate (you can see the scratches).

Regarding the release of elements from stainless steel, it may occur in trace amounts with any standard food/medical-grade stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10, type 304).  There are three key possibilities for release from stainless steel:  iron, chromium and nickel.  Iron is the base material from which steel is made.  The nickel and chromium are what make stainless steel stainless, corrosion-resistant and durable.  The ’18′ refers to the percentage of chromium in the stainless steel, and the ’8′ or ’10′ the percentage of nickel.

Our bodies need iron to produce red blood cells.  While large amounts can be poisonous, in North America, the chances are much greater that we lack iron.  In general, iron cookware and dishes provide less than 20% of the total daily iron intake, which is well within safe levels.

As with chromium, small doses of chromium are also positive for human health.  The safe intake range is around 50 to 200 micrograms per day and one meal prepared with stainless steel products might release around 45 micrograms of chromium, which is well within safe levels.  Even eating with stainless steel dishes several times a day is fine, as less chromium is released from just eating off the dishes compared with cooking in them using heat.

Nickel is not toxic in small amounts, but it can provoke a reaction in people allergic to nickel.  An allergic reaction may consist of a metallic taste in the mouth or a skin rash on the hands (eczema) or elsewhere on the body.   Small amounts of nickel can be transferred from stainless steel containers or cookware to foods – especially when the food in question is acidic (e.g., tomatoes, rhubarb).  However, the amounts of nickel that may be released from non-corrosive stainless steel products (which all our stainless steel products are) are generally smaller than the amounts one would ingest by eating certain food items such as beef, chocolate, soya beans, oatmeal, nuts & almonds, and fresh & dried legumes, all of which have a relatively high nickel content.  So if someone suspects s/he may have an allergy to nickel, we always suggest avoiding all stainless steel completely.

For detailed scientific information on nickel, here is a link to a comprehensive Environment Canada/Health Canada Assessment Report of nickel and its compounds: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/contaminants/psl1-lsp1/compounds_nickel_composes/index_e.html. If you take a look at pages 22 and 24 of this document, it will give you an idea of the amounts of nickel released from different foods, and from stainless steel (last sentence in second paragraph on p. 24).  As well, here is a Fact Sheet from the US Department of Health and Human Services:  http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts15.html Included in the ‘References’ section of this Fact Sheet is a link to a detailed toxicological profile of nickel (397 pages).   The upshot is that using corrosion-resistant stainless steel will not add a significant amount of nickel to your diet (the average person ingests about 150-200 micrograms of nickel daily) – you’ll get much more from nickel-rich foods.  However, as mentioned above, if you suspect you are sensitive to nickel, the best route would be to avoid any contact with nickel, including via stainless steel products.

So regarding your question about the deterioration of stainless steel, yes, there will be minute amounts of elements of the stainless steel being released as it goes through normal wear and tear, and the above substances are what is coming out.  We think, on balance, that this is considerably safer than the endocrine disruptors coming out of various plastics.

OK, we will take small amounts of nickle, iron and chromium over formaldehyde and urea any day!

You say:  “…less chromium is released from just eating off the dishes compared with cooking in them using heat.” Does that mean if I cook all the food in stainless steel (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and my daughter eats the food out of stainless steel dishes, she could be getting toxic levels of lead, chromium and nickel? Also, I don’t quite understand what these numbers mean: “stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10, type 304)”.

First off, if you cook all the food for your meals in stainless steel (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and your daughter eats the food out of stainless steel dishes – NO, she should not be getting anywhere even close to toxic levels of chromium, lead or nickel – as long as the stainless steel product is made of high quality stainless steel and is from a solid manufacturer.  But lets take it step by step.

The point with chromium is that it should not be dangerous at the levels you will get from stainless steel, be it by eating off dishes or cooking in them – as long as the stainless steel is of high quality (you will notice I said, ”one meal prepared with stainless steel products might release around 45 micrograms of chromium, which is well within safe levels”).  I say ‘might’ because I cannot respond to you with a black or white answer, which would assume all stainless steels are the same.  There are literally hundreds of grades of stainless steel.  But if the stainless steel is of high quality it will be stable and should not be releasing anything, or if at all, very minute amounts.

In my message below I tried to be clear in explaining that nickel becomes a concern if you suspect you may have an allergy to it, and I have read that this may be the case for about 10% of the population.  In such situations, we suggest not using stainless steel at all.

As for lead, there should not be any lead in stainless steel itself – provided it is high quality stainless steel (and we know from experience that the only way to be sure of the quality is to test it and/or to know the manufacturer).  Where the lead comes into the picture is in the solder used to connect pieces of stainless steel to make the final product – thus if the final product is made from a single seamless piece of stainless steel, there should not be any lead.  And again, the only way to know if there is lead in a final product is to test it.

Please be very careful about lumping parts of this information together and drawing broad conclusions. It just doesn’t work that way, which is also why one has to be extremely careful in interpreting test data.  You have to put it in perspective and understand that unless a stainless steel product is leaching significant amounts of lead or nickel (in which case it is a very low quality product), it is going to be vastly safer than the food grade plastics on the market, most of which are clearly leaching chemicals such as endocrine disruptors.  It is a balance.  And it is a personal decision.

So all of this points to the quality of the stainless steel.  In our products, including the products under our Sanctus Mundo brand, we use only grade 304 stainless steel, which is a high quality, food grade stainless steel, and all of our products come from very reputable manufacturers, with whom we have solid trust relationships – plus the products are tested.  The 304 refers to the grade of the stainless steel.  If you would like a quick broad overview of stainless steel, including the different grades, I would suggest you take a look at the Wikipedia entry for it here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel

As I mentioned below, ‘the ’18′ refers to the percentage of chromium in the stainless steel, and the ’8′ or ’10′ the percentage of nickel.’  Both 18/8 and 18/10  stainless steels of grade 304 are high quality, food grade stainless steels.  If you look around, you will see that a lot of cheaper stainless steel products are of the 200 or 400 grade (e.g., 202 or 430).  This applies to much of the stuff you will find in, for example, the Dollar Store.

So to answer your final question, we definitely recommend stainless steel as an option for cooking – unless you suspect you have an allergy to nickel (and the only way to know this for sure is to have an allergy test done).  In such cases, glass (e.g. Pyrex cookware) may be an option.  As for cast iron, it releases a heck of a lot more iron than stainless steel – BUT this is not necessarily a bad thing because as I explained the body needs a fair amount of iron on a daily basis.

What is clear in this world where most consumer products coming from abroad are not tested or checked to any significant degree before going on the market is that quality varies widely, and broad conclusions are dangerous and usually wrong.

Thank you Jay from Sanctus Mundo for answering all our questions in details!

Life Without Plastic

And yet another respectable feature regarding Sanctus Mundo’s great dish sets, are that they come packaged in a recycable, eco-friendly box, no pvc-packaging here!

Thanks Sanctus Mundo fo bringing healthy, earth-friendly, non-leaching, and food safe products for our kids.  Mealtime has not only been safe, but fun too!

The Frog Set is a 3-Piece Set:  1 Bowl, 1 Plate, 1 Mug and retails for $34.95 at LifeWithoutPlastic.com

The 3-piece Stainless Steel Set: 1 Bowl, 1 Plate, 1 Mug retails for $23.95 at LifeWithoutPlastic.com

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-melamine.htm ** http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-urea.htm

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Category: 0-1 yr, 1-3 yrs, 3-5 yrs, 5+ yrs, BPA-Free, Drinking, Feeding, Product Reviews, PVC-free

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  • Brittany

    Thanks for the great info! I will definitely be switching to stainless steel for my kiddos!

  • Hung

    Everyone loves what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and
    reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve included you guys to my own blogroll.

  • safbaby

    Thank you:-)!!!

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