Advice from BuRO on the health risks of bamboo cups

Bamboo cups are popular as reusable cup for coffee and tea. When drinking hot beverages from bamboo cups, there is a risk that formaldehyde is released into the drink. The current limit can be exceeded. Furthermore, bamboo is not authorised as part of plastic cups. Therefore, BuRO advises the minister for Medical Care and Sport, amongst other things, to inform consumers about this finding and the NVWA to ban these types of food contact materials from the market.

Advices BuRO

To the Minister for Medical Care and Sport

  • The current SML for formaldehyde (15 mg/kg) offers insufficient protection for children’s tableware. The necessary action should be taken to adjust this SML so that it offers sufficient protection.
  • The results of this Advisory Report should be brought to the attention of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre (Voedingscentrum) so that it can inform consumers and professionals about the various risks and particularly about those affecting babies and children.

To the Inspector-General of the NVWA

  • As long as there is no new SML, action should be taken against violations of the current SML for formaldehyde (15 mg/kg) and melamine (2.5 mg/kg) in FCM made of melamine resin.
  • Moreover, consumer articles for young children should be tested for the migration of melamine and formaldehyde.
  • The risks of bamboo cups should be actively communicated on the NVWA website.
  • Plastic FCM containing the unauthorised additives bamboo and/corn should be banned from the Dutch market.


The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has recently conducted a market study to investigate the migration of formaldehyde from bamboo cups. Since a number of excessive violations of the migration limit for formaldehyde were found, the Enforcement Directorate of the NVWA requested the Office for Risk Assessment & Research (BuRO) for its advice and posed the following questions.

  1. How severe is the health risk entailed by the observed migration of formaldehyde from bamboo/melamine food utensils?
  2. From what level of formaldehyde migration is there a health risk for adults and for children (aged up to three years)?

    BuRO itself has added another research question regarding melamine:
  3. From what level of melamine migration from bamboo/melamine food contact materials is there a health risk?