Toxins in coffee-to-go cups are a health risk

Toxins in coffee-to-go cups are a health risk

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Toxins in products made from bamboo fibers or corn flour

The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) warns of "coffee-to-go" cups as well as plates, cups or other dishes made of bamboo fibers or corn flour. The main focus of the research showed that such products very often release toxins, which can then get into the drinks.

In a press conference on November 26, 2019, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) pointed out that current alternatives to disposable "coffee-to-go" cups often pose a potential health hazard. Most products are sold as a “natural” alternative, but often contain plastics such as melamine-formaldehyde resins, which can enter food at higher temperatures.

56 products examined

As part of a nationwide monitoring, the BVL examined 56 products made of bamboo fibers or corn flour. The sobering result: the limit values ​​for melamine were exceeded in every fourth product and the limit values ​​for formaldehyde in more than one tenth product. For some articles, the values ​​were even four times the melamine limit and 19 times the formaldehyde limit.

What are the limits?

There are legal limits for such products to prevent health-damaging damage from the leakage of melamine and formaldehyde. A maximum of 2.5 milligrams of melamine and 15 milligrams of formaldehyde may be used per kilogram of tableware capacity.

Neither environmentally friendly nor healthy!

"Consumers think they are choosing an environmentally friendly alternative, but then they are holding a product that can pose a health risk," emphasizes BVL President Dr. Helmut Tschiersky. Here consumers are doubly deceived, because sustainable bamboo fiber is often the focus of marketing. However, this often only makes up a small part of the materials. The cups often have a considerable amount of plastic.

Melamine particularly dangerous

"It is particularly worrying that the transitions from melamine to the respective foodstuffs even increase when the products are used several times," said Tschiersky. For some products, the release of the toxin was higher with the fifth use of the cup than with the third.

What health risks are associated with melamine?

Animal studies in rats and mice have already shown that oral melamine intake has a toxic effect on the bladder. This could lead to the formation of crystals in the urine and the formation of bladder stones. At higher doses, the animals showed symptoms such as watery eyes, breathing disorders, tremors, circulatory disorders and symptoms of paralysis.

What are the health risks from formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde has been classified by the EU as a carcinogen. Studies in rats showed that the rodents developed more tumors in the nasal cavities when they inhaled regular formaldehyde. In addition, formaldehyde is irritating to the eyes and is suspected of triggering or intensifying asthma. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL): Health risks for "coffee-to-go" cups (available on November 26, 2019),
  • Federal Association of Consumers: Materials with melamine (as of April 18, 2019),
  • Federal Environment Agency: Formaldehyde (as of: 02.10.2015),

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