Wood Finishes & "Food Safe"

Continuing the discussion from Dyeing a Cutting Board Grey?:

By and large aren’t all finishes food safe? In that every finish, including so-called “food safe” finishes, are only “food safe” after completely curing. The process of curing, whether by evaporation/off-gassing or contact with open air/oxidation, is essentially where the poisonous stuff use to dissolve or suspend the actual “finish” disappears, leaving only the protective surface, e.g. (from link at bottom):

Q. How about so-called salad bowl finishes? Are they any safer for use with food? A. We looked at the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for one type of salad bowl finish and found toluene–a probable cancer hazard–along with naphtha, ethyl benzene, and cobalt, all of which can damage your health with sufficient exposure. So, these products are as safe as, but no safer than, any other cured finish.

It’s worth noting that cutting & chopping boards are a specific use case: wood finishes that might come into contact with food include bowls, cups, plates, utensils, trenchers, and countertops. Cutting/chopping surfaces experience a lot of wear-n-tear from a knife (or whatever) and no matter what it is finished with there is the almost inescapable micro-particles from the board that get chopped/sliced up with the wood grain and end up in whatever food is on the board. So even if not finished at all some wood fibers/molecules will end up potentially being ingested.

While I am personally not terribly worried about ingesting a little bit of micro-particles of whatever (geez…the crud we ingest/breath in all day long is enough to make a billy goat puke), this is why I only use wax/mineral oil combinations,which then need to be regularly re-applied, as finish for “working” cutting boards, as opposed to dough-rolling or display or serving boards, e.g. a charcuterie board.

I agree for those that “cure”. The catalyzed version of Monocoat does cure. Not knowledgeable about how that applies to uncatalyzed hard wax. But to the point, the color agent is where things can get more questionable. Some strange things can be used to get a color and they aren’t all healthy. I do question if one could ever get a harmful dose from a cutting board, but if nothing else COVID proved exposure, dosage, etc. are all elements of science either ignored or exaggerated at will by the masses*.

BTW, the Rubio Monocoat website never actually says the colors are food safe, but they show a blue charcuterie board as an example which suggests they probably are.

*Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the M is silent.

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You can always start with food safe, Food dyes… here is a video of the experiment

Koolaid made some drinks that made my lips red and purple all summer as a kid :rofl:

Stumpy Nubs has video on the subject as well…

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Just eat the paint chips, they’re good for you… :grin: :grin: 9 out of 10 Dr’s approve…lol


I like my chips with garlic dip :rofl::rofl::rofl:


I’ve did some research on finishing bowls so they can be safely used with food.
The FDA relevant regulation:


My reading of the regulation is that poly urethane is safe for dry food contact if the ingredients come from a specific list in the regulation. It does not say that all poly urethanes are food safe (doesn’t say they aren’t either).

In my research only two brands have come out and said “This product contains FDA regulated ingredients complying with 21 CFR 175.300" The Behlens/Mohawk (the two companies merged recently) Salad bowl finish and General Finishes Wood Bowl Finish. General Finishes recently stopped advertising this so the world is down to one brand. No other brands of poly make this claim (that I am aware of – if you know of one let me know).

I agree that it seems logical that once poly is cured it is food safe, but I do not have a PhD in Chemistry or a PhD in the causes of cancer.

At this point all I can say with certainty is that the Behlens Salad Bowl Finish complies with FDA requirements for safe dry food contact. Note this does not guarantee it is safe, just that the FDA says it’s safe. They could be wrong. Other brands of poly might be safe but the other manufacturers nor the FDA expressly say they are safe. They might be safe but who knows for sure?

Note: lots of things were considered “logical” at one point or another in history.
Examples: “The world is flat”, “Blood letting is good”, “Smoking cigarettes is good for your health” I could go on and on … Just because something seems logical doesn’t make it right.

Caveat Emptor


Polyurethanes are a single coat straight from the can, right?

I know that epoxies never say that they’re food safe because that counts on the end user mixing the epoxy correctly.

Polys are usually two to three coats (24 hours apart).

There are safe for food contact epoxies! Here is one - there may be others

They state: “All components used to formulate the MAX CLR THIXO resin system are in compliance with; Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Part 175
for resinous coatings/adhesive subject to direct and indirect food contact.”

I think the food safety is in the formulation - not the mixing part (unless you totally screwed it up and it never cured!!)

Are there any food safe finishes that contain Arsenic and Old Lace? That’s something I might-could be interested in.

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