How safe are some microwave plates?

March 2, 2011 4:04:59 PM PST
The plates in your kitchen cabinet may say "microwave safe," but how safe are they? A Friendswood mom says some of her microwave-safe plates exploded when she tried to heat some food. We watched as this microwave safe plate from Target was put into the microwave. Less than three minutes later, the plate broke.

Corrie Van Houten says she bought a set of microwave-, dishwasher-safe plates from Target in January. After using them in the microwave, she says something seemed wrong.

"We noticed sometimes we would have to take them out with pot holders and put them on a trivet. I mean, that is how hot they would get," Van Houten said.

She says she did not think much about the high temperatures until recently cooking bacon on one of the plates.

"I put it in for two minutes and it stopped and I looked at it and the bacon was still pretty raw and so I put it on for another two minutes and it just exploded," said Van Houten.

Van Houten showed Eyewitness News the plate she says exploded in her microwave. So we put her other plates to the test.

The first plate survived for three minutes at 100 percent power in the microwave. A second plate had a problem -- Just before the two minute mark we heard a small pop. And once we took the plate out of the microwave, there was a crack.

But a third plate cracked after being in the microwave two minutes and forty-two seconds.

It turns out Van Houten is not the only person who has had their Target Home American Simplicity Stoneware products explode. On Target's own website, we found several people complaining about plates, bowls or cups that blew up in microwaves.

"The dishes overheat; that they had exploded," said Van Houten.

When Van Houten contacted Target's customer care department, she says she was told there was nothing the company could do because Van Houten no longer had her receipt and she was not injured by the plate.

When we contacted Target, the company told us in a written statement, "We are taking these claims seriously and investigating the matter. We have a testing process in place to validate that our Target brand products comply with federal product safety requirements, including microwavability. All verification testing conducted at a certified, third-party lab on the products identified in this in query indicated that they meet these requirements."

The company did not address why the plates are exploding. So we asked Judy Adams of the Foelber Gallery. She's been making pottery for 28 years.

"My theory is that somehow this piece was not fired in a kiln to the temperature that it should have been fired, which means that the clay is still porous. If the clay is porous, it can absorb moisture," said Adams.

She says when the moisture is heated, it turns to steam and can cause the plate to fail in dramatic fashion -- something the Van Houtens have seen first-hand.

"The plate exploded, it's a pretty loud explosion," said Van Houten.

So how do you know if your microwave safe plates are OK? If you take the dish out of the microwave and it is extremely hot, we're talking hot enough to burn your hand and the food is not, then the plate may have a problem.