Author Topic: Wood for Food  (Read 403 times)

Offline Derek

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Wood for Food
« on: August 14, 2019, 01:56:25 PM »
 Having a brief discussion with a well-known turner today about woods used for foodstuff got me thinking.

I know that people have asked for advice on woods for food and it may have been done to death but this is a small piece of research. There are going to be some that will say this is what I use but I am sure there are so many other woods other than those we deem as homegrown

What woods from around the world are deemed as safe to use with food I am talking of those that have research that has been done on them or are proven to be safe.

As far as I am aware there are lists for toxicity which usually covers things like working with the woods for example dust and it's reaction to contact with skin and also being inhaled, but not one that covers wood that comes into contact with food whether it is sealed or not.

I am now going to duck and wait for the flack ;D ;D ;D

Offline Twisted Trees

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2019, 02:02:24 PM »
Spin that around, what woods are unsafe for contact with foodstuffs?

Offline willstewart

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2019, 04:33:13 PM »
Well I would not use yew or laburnum for example for a fruit bowl or a pepper grinder - but I also suspect that the actual risk for this kind of 'dry' use is close to zero.  Contact with liquid food (?unlikely) or use in a young child's toy that might be sucked is different; stick to readily-available approved coatings (that will not last long anyway) and clearly safe normal woods (& use designs whose shape meets approval tests - the US online one for a rattle is simple).  Woodwind musical instruments such as flutes is an interesting case - so I guess we know blackwood & a few others like boxwood are OK.

But does anyone know of actual cases of harm for bowls?

Offline bodrighywood

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2019, 07:08:01 PM »
Most woods are arguably safe unless chewed or sucked but it is the 1% of people who have an allergy that we have to think about. Most of the danger is from the dust etc as said but IMHO better safe than sorry especially if someone did become ill from simething I made I am legally liable, even if I gifted it to them. Laburnum, yew, walnut can be a problem for those with extreme nut allergies, iroko, teak, in fac=t most oily woods as the oil can seep into the food. Best better are all the acers, beech, and some indigenous ones such as hawthorn, fruit trees blackthorn,

Pete
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Online The Bowler Hatted Turner

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2019, 08:14:16 PM »
I have a wooden flute made from Rosewood and I know people that are allergic to Rosewood so care must be taken in selecting what woods to use.
I am sure that the tannin in Oak would kill any bacteria on a serving platter made in that wood, but I always think Oak, because of the depth of the grain as a "dirty" timber. Boxwood, Beech and Sycamore have stood the test of time, Cedar perhaps and Cherry but personally I would not buy stuff made in different woods that were going to be in contact with my food. Others may feel differently of course but until a proper study has been made all of us are just guessing.

Offline seventhdevil

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2019, 08:59:41 PM »
surely the passing of the millenia has stated that just about any wood is safe unless consumed...

Offline Twisted Trees

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2019, 07:29:59 AM »
According to Kew Gardens although Yew leaves are very toxic, and Yew bark contains lesser amounts of the toxin Yew timber does not contain any actual poison, it does however react with wine to make toxin. so from that you can say with reasonable certainty that Yew is not poison in contact with dry foods, or even when licked.

As mentioned above allergies are a different matter and there will be someone out there that is allergic to every substance, there is also the risk of other contaminants getting into timber particularly open grain timbers.

Personally I stick to mostly safe timber for things that will contact wet food / children, and identify the timber used so that those with allergies can make a decision.

It is more likely that the finishes we use will be the toxic element than the timber under it. Food safe danish oil still contains nuts!

Offline Derek

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2019, 08:30:15 PM »
Thank you all for the input so the short answer to my original question is that nobody knows for sure, this seems to be a common problem on various forums that I asked the question.

Offline Percy

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2019, 09:15:45 PM »
Our ancestors would have drunk from wooden bowls and cups for well over a thousand years. One of the main reasons for turners work was to create eating and drinking utensils. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that most native hardwoods and fruit woods are the standard for eating utensils, and likewise some evidence that using poisonous woods is not a good idea! Robin Wood's book, The Wooden Bowl is a good source of historical info about eating bowls and cups. His research shows that common wood for eating bowls would have been alder, maple, birch, ash, elm, poplar and oak.
My family all use wooden bowls for their breakfast and have done for the last 5 years - they have their favourites and these are made from ash, elm, oak and pear wood (all of these finished with flax seed oil). All still seem to be in robust health!

Online GBF

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2019, 10:23:34 PM »
I use Sycamore or Beech for food bowls but I am sure other woods are equally safe

Regards George
The man that never made a mistake never made anything

Offline John Plater

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2019, 12:34:42 PM »
According to Kew Gardens although Yew leaves are very toxic, and Yew bark contains lesser amounts of the toxin Yew timber does not contain any actual poison,

I'm not so sure about this one. Other sources from a simple google search suggest to the contrary. Unless a person commissions a yew piece I tend to steer clear. A day working with it will give me a blinding headache unless I cover up with long sleeves and gloves to prevent absorption and wear respiratory protection to lessen breathing the dust. Such a shame as it is a gorgeous timber !

Irrespective of the specie of timber used, any functional product intended for food use should also be perfectly sound and free of any imperfections which could harbour any gremlins. When I am asked at a craft show "Can I use it for...." I always say that I do not make a piece with any particular function in mind and always add the proviso that I cannot control how a piece might be used when the customer takes it away !
ATB John
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Offline michaelb

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2019, 04:48:16 PM »
I turn Yew on a regular basis never had a rash etc but always ware a respirator what ever wood I am turning and  especially sanding, however I do find oak gives me itch arms. My feeling is once wood is sealed and finished it is that comes into contact with whatever is put in the bowl . I think the public when they buy from us are aware that some are decorative pieces, some are useful for whatever they wish to do with it and others are practical.
We can get too hung up on our individual pieces, look at the stuff in the £1.oo shops they haven't a clue as the type of wood what finish etc

Offline Paul Hannaby

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Re: Wood for Food
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2019, 05:15:46 PM »
I think if you stick to woods which have been used for hundreds of years without known issues, you can be confident they are accepted as safe to use.= - fruit woods, sycamore, beech, ash, oak, olive maple, plane, birch etc.