FDA approved wood species for food contact

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Forum topic by PRGDesigns posted 09-04-2012 08:36 PM 17967 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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246 posts in 2824 days

09-04-2012 08:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource bubinga oak purpleheart padauk zebrawood walnut pine maple cherry lathe turning

I just received my latest e-mail blast from Cook Woods. In the e-mail there was a curious statement about the wood species being offered: “Approved by the FDA for food containers, cottonwood works well for bowls or other turned articles.” I have no reason not to believe this statement, but it did make me curious what other wood species might be FDA approved for food contact? I called Cook Woods to find out how I could verify this statement and was met with “on the internet”. I searched the internet as suggested, visiting the morass of government alphabet soup websites w/o success. Either my search skills are inadequate or I am not intelligent enough to know something when I see it. I have seen previous discussions on this subject in the LJ Forum but it appeared to be mostly anecdotal information on the type of wood species for food contact. My challenge to my fellow LJ’s is as follows:

Is there a list of wood species that are FDA/USDA/(XYZ Government agency) approved for food contact?

If so, where might one obtain such a list?

And yes, I realize the finish is also important for the food contact, but I was more interested in the wood species and direct food contact. Thanks in advance for any consideration you can give this matter.

-- They call me Mr. Silly

15 replies so far

View 1stmistake's profile


13 posts in 2682 days

#1 posted 09-04-2012 09:01 PM

I found this: FDA Food Code 2009: Chapter 4 – Equipment, Utensils, and Linens

It’s very vague on any particular species… see point B:

4-101.17 Wood, Use Limitation.
(A) Except as specified in ¶¶ (B), (C), and (D) of this section, wood and wood wicker may not be used as a food-contact surface.
(B) Hard maple or an equivalently hard, close-grained wood may be used for:
(1) Cutting boards; cutting blocks; bakers’ tables; and utensils such as rolling pins, doughnut dowels, salad bowls, and chopsticks; and
(2) Wooden paddles used in confectionery operations for pressure scraping kettles when manually preparing confections at a temperature of 110°C (230°F) or above.
(C) Whole, uncut, raw fruits and vegetables, and nuts in the shell may be kept in the wood shipping containers in which they were received, until the fruits, vegetables, or nuts are used.
(D) If the nature of the food requires removal of rinds, peels, husks, or shells before consumption, the whole, uncut, raw food may be kept in:
(1) Untreated wood containers; or
(2) Treated wood containers if the containers are treated with a preservative that meets the requirements specified in 21 CFR 178.3800 Preservatives for wood.

And more on that last point:

Sec. 178.3800 Preservatives for wood.
Preservatives may be safely used on wooden articles that are used or intended for use in packaging, transporting, or holding raw agricultural products subject to the provisions of this section:

(a) The preservatives are prepared from substances identified in paragraph (b) of this section and applied in amounts not to exceed those necessary to accomplish the technical effect of protecting the wood from decay, mildew, and water absorption.

(b) The substances permitted are as follows:

Mineral spirits
Paraffin wax
Petroleum hydrocarbon resin, produced by the homo- and copolymerization of dienes and olefins of the aliphatic, alicyclic, and monobenzenoid arylalkene type from distillates of cracked petroleum stocks
Pentachlorophenol and its sodium salt (Not to exceed 50 p.p.m. in the treated wood, calculated as pentachlorophenol.)
Rosins and rosin derivatives
Zinc salt of sulfonated petroleum

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2686 days

#2 posted 09-04-2012 09:26 PM

Thank you for this post.
However, I am afraid I am of no help.
I am waiting instead of some experts dropping by to give us some hints.

View PRGDesigns's profile


246 posts in 2824 days

#3 posted 09-04-2012 09:29 PM

Excellent. Based upon this particular section of government regulations, it appears that any hardwood which is “equivalent” to maple is acceptable for the uses listed, with “equivalent” being the operative word. I wonder which “equivalent” standard they are referring to. i.e. hardness, density, etc.? I am still curious why Cook Woods would use this phrase to describe this wood species. almost like there is a list of wood species rather than the generic description you found.

Just curious – what search terms did you use?

Thanks again!

-- They call me Mr. Silly

View AandCstyle's profile


3219 posts in 2768 days

#4 posted 09-05-2012 12:10 AM

” it appears that any hardwood which is “equivalent” to maple is acceptable for the uses listed, with “equivalent” being the operative word.”

It is the “close-grained” they are referencing. This means that they approve any similar close-grained wood. Scroll down on this page until you see the pix of end grain and click on the image. However, I have not been able to find a list of similar woods, perhaps someone can point one out.

-- Art

View Porto's profile


1 post in 1333 days

#5 posted 02-25-2016 02:00 AM

Hardwood or not doesnt mean its safe for food, most fruit tree are good to go but be carefull sap in tree can be toxic specially exotic wood!!! Read on the type of wood before using it for food

View johnstoneb's profile


3130 posts in 2683 days

#6 posted 02-25-2016 02:10 AM

It’s called sales. They must be overstocked.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View bearkatwood's profile


1805 posts in 1522 days

#7 posted 02-25-2016 02:17 AM

They used PCP in the past to kill sapstain, now they use copper 8. Big improvement.

-- Brian Noel

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2506 days

#8 posted 02-25-2016 03:01 AM

Those FDA regs are written more for industrial and commercial settings than your house. Not that it isn’t a good idea to see what they are up to, but the government isn’t testing this wood vs. that wood to tell you what is safe. They are writing those regs based on all of the spot testing they do for contamination in all the plants, restaraunts, etc. they visit.

Hence the ‘or equivalent’ statement. They know some that work and some that don’t, but not all that do or don’t.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View tomsteve's profile


964 posts in 1730 days

#9 posted 02-25-2016 11:32 AM

equivilant to maple has me wondering if it is hardness, there are somd woods that are as hard and harder that are oily. im wondering if the oils in those woods are food safe.

View mramseyISU's profile


578 posts in 2056 days

#10 posted 02-25-2016 01:34 PM

I’m not sure it applies here but I’ve designed some food processing equipment and those guys generally won’t touch something without a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) statement. All that means is that it either doesn’t have any toxic ingredients or you can prove that the toxins won’t leech out. At the end of the day there’s a reason you don’t see wood cutting boards in many industrial settings and it’s those GRAS statements.

-- Trust me I'm an engineer.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5227 posts in 4471 days

#11 posted 02-25-2016 01:53 PM

OK! I’m throwin’ away my 100+ year old dough bowl. Wondered why my biscuits tasted strange.

-- [email protected]

View oldwood's profile


161 posts in 1755 days

#12 posted 02-26-2016 04:05 AM

There is a USDA report on line that says wood cutting boards are safer than manmade materials because the tannin or tannic acid in the wood kills bacteria, whereas it can get trapped in nicks and cuts in plastic and such.

View JohnMTO's profile


4 posts in 1328 days

#13 posted 07-02-2017 03:07 PM

This might be useful—


John O

-- John

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5351 posts in 2820 days

#14 posted 07-02-2017 03:28 PM

What we need is less government messing in our lives.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Madmark2's profile


521 posts in 1099 days

#15 posted 07-02-2017 06:49 PM

USDA “Wood Handbook – Wood as an Engineering Material” is what every woodworker needs on their bookshelf.

Free ‘cause it was produced with taxpayer $$$.


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