Our Statements

Below you will find official statements from our Ethics & Research team.

Santos Bamboo keep cups

We’d love to tell you a bit about our Santos bamboo keep cups and what they are made from, since there has recently been some mixed information in the media about bamboo cups / tableware and the melamine-formaldehyde resin used in the manufacture of these cups. We also want to take this opportunity to demystify some information about melamine and formaldehyde – 2 chemical compounds that are not as scary as we all think!

The Santos keep cups are made from a type of bamboo fibreware, which has been manufactured in accordance with strict EU food safety standards and regulations. The material of these cups comprises approximately 75% bamboo fibre and a resin of 25%.

The resin is made up of formaldehyde and organic compound melamine and the manufacturers of these cups have carried out specific testing with independent institutions such as TÜV Rheinland to ensure compliance with the EU’s strict food contact safety regulations ((EC) No 1935/2004 and (EC) No 10/2011) and to show that the presence of these chemical compounds do not exceed prescribed EU limits (Commission Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 and its amendments).

Specifically, testing for the migration of formaldehyde articles within the scope of (EU) No 284/2011 and 2,4,6-Triamino and 1,3,5-Triazine (Melamine) was carried out on these cups by simulating a liquid of 3% acetic acid (similar to coffee) at a temperature of 70 degrees for a period of 2 hours. The tests showed that the amount of these chemical compounds in the liquid was significantly less than the prescribed EU limits and that they successfully passed the testing process. A copy of the independent test results commissioned by the manufacturer of our cups can be found HERE.

In looking at these test results, it is important to note that the simulated conditions are extreme and therefore in practical terms, this means that our actual exposure to formaldehyde and melamine from drinking a hot drink (not exceeding 70 degrees Celsius) in these cups over a few minutes is extremely and negligibly low, to non-existent.

However, as a health conscious community, when we hear that something contains formaldehyde, our immediate response tends to be that it is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. While this is certainly true when it comes to high levels of exposure to formaldehyde at an occupational level, a little known fact about formaldehyde is that it also occurs naturally as part of human metabolic process, as well as in many fruits and vegetables, including apples, bananas, grapes, plums, onions, carrots and spinach and we are exposed to it regularly without any apparent, hazardous or detrimental effects on our health. You can find out more in this interesting article by the International Food Information Council Foundation which talks about the safety and prevalence of formaldehyde in our daily lives and the negligible impact that it has on our health in small amounts.

Similarly, when we think of melamine foodware, we commonly respond to this with the same hesitation and trepidation. Over the years, there has been information in the media about the leaching of melamine components 2,4,6-Triamino and 1,3,5-Triazine into food coming into contact with melamine. This report by the World Health Organisation demystifies this information and also formed an important part of our research when considering selling these cups.

One of the reasons that we wanted to share all this information with you is because there has recently been an article on bamboo coffee cups and tableware by a German consumer group Stiftung Warentest that caught our attention. This article says that there were “high levels” of melamine and formaldehyde when similar tests to those described above were carried out consecutively and repeatedly. The article states that these chemical compounds were present after numerous tests but does agree that generally melamine resin is harmless as long as certain conditions are met – namely that liquids contained within them do not exceed a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for prolonged periods of time (ie. longer than 2 hours). Interestingly, the report does not give a numerical reading of these “high” levels and how it compares to the EU standards but similar articles have since followed and we have explored all the information as it has become available to ensure that our research is kept up to date.

As a result, after much consideration and research, we have concluded that the Santos keep cups are safe to contain drinks (or foods) as long as they are NOT used in microwaves or ovens or filled with drinks exceeding a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius and they are NOT kept at this temperature for periods longer than 2 hours. We’d also like to let you know that the coffee that we serve at our cafes is always less than 70 degrees Celsius (and consumed in much less time than 2 hours!) so you can rest assured that our cups are not only safe but also a great contribution towards eliminating single-use waste!