Food safe wood

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sammo

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Hi, are there certain woods that you cannot use to store food in, bowls, pepper grinders etc.... Any information about toxic wood I have found seems to focus on the dust hazards.
 

KimG

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Well Laburnum is all round not good to eat (Wood, seeds leaves) so that's one that it would be best avoided for using with consumables.

If you are going to make food safe items it's probably best to ask which woods are safe rather than the other way round.

Safe woods are Sycamore, Ash, Holly, Walnut, Beech, Mahogany.

These can be used even for such things as Salad bowls as they stay pretty stable (though maybe Holly might move a bit, I have found it to be a bit on the mobile side) That's a selection that gives a variety of textures, colours and grain.
 

chipmunk

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Most domestic hardwoods are foodsafe apart from the obvious yew and laburnum but to be on the safe side I'd stick to traditional treen varieties such as the general fruitwoods (plum, pear, apple etc) and sycamore and beech for wood in contact with moist or damp bare food. I'd also avoid using spalted timber though, just good sound wood.

But it very much depends upon the use you're going to put it to. You do need to be more careful about salad bowls, chopping boards and spoons but you could probably get away with slightly less foodsafe varieties for fruitbowls pepper grinders etc because it'd be very unlikely for wet or damp food to be used and to get contaminated.

HTH
Jon
 

sammo

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Hi thanks, I was hopping to use some Yew for a salt and pepper grinder. On the fruit bowl side I have used a piece of spalted maple, but it sounds as though so long as the food is dry and not prepped then things should be ok.

Thinking about it - it would take significant amounts of 'contaiminated' salt or pepper to do anyone harm :)

Chris
 

chipmunk

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Chris,
If you are concerned then you could always seal the inside of your salt and pepper grinders with lacquer to make doubly sure.

I have a feeling that Chris West's book on salt and pepper grinders says that seasoned yew is ok for this purpose but I am not 100% sure.

HTH
Jon
 

Bodrighy

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With so many people with allergies nowadays it is always wise to play safe and stick to woods like fruit woods, beech and sycamore. I avoid using any exotics personally. I also use some like hazel and hawthorn if I get them big enough to make something from them.

Pete
 

Neil Farrer

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sammo":2b3amj3t said:
Hi thanks, I was hopping to use some Yew for a salt and pepper grinder. On the fruit bowl side I have used a piece of spalted maple, but it sounds as though so long as the food is dry and not prepped then things should be ok.

Thinking about it - it would take significant amounts of 'contaiminated' salt or pepper to do anyone harm :)

Chris

The woodturning fraternity seem adamant on perpetuating rumours about the toxicity of wood and how safe or not it is to use.

Please read these articles and draw your own conclusion. We have become so risk averse that we produce these so called food safe oils yet I dont recall seeing any reports of the hundreds of people dying when wooden bowls and plates were used in the 1700s without the benefit of food safe oil.

Here's the first article:

http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/l ... roides.htm

and the second:

http://www.wood-database.com/wood-artic ... -toxicity/

In todays technological world we have many ways to prove that something is positive but cannot by definition prove a negative and as such we continue to treat Laburnum and Yew as if visual contact will make us drop dead in ten seconds. Yew is the base of tamoxifen about which I dont know much, but am aware that it is injected as a treatment for breast cancer, so all encompassing claims about the toxicity of Yew should be treated with doubt or total disbelief.

It is however a good idea not to eat things which are not designed to be eaten as these can have a detrimental effect to ones continued well being. Water, drunk in excessive quantity is a poison and can kill but I am still going to have a cup of tea today. Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication.

The harsh reality is that more people have died drinking too much water than with contact and subsequent poisoning from Laburnum. So, are you going to use a beautiful wood to make a practical food implement with? I'm still alive (which proves nothing), (annoyingly so according to some), and have used Yew salt and pepper pots, and Laburnum and other woods for bowls and other things which are likely to come into contact with food.

One word or warning though, don't barbeque over Tambootie, it will ruin your day!
 

renderer01

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Hello Neil Farrer,
Im very glad I fell across this listing, I had a few misconceptions tinged with doubts. Reading the data available in these sites and cross referencing has confirmed that information I had aquired over many years in some cases was spurious to say the least.
I could go into detail but it would require a 10,000 word essay, Let it suffice to say thanks.
Oh and I do take your meaning regarding tambootie lol.
Regards,

Rend.
 

procell

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I have to agree with the comments regarding our ancestors not getting sick from using different types of wood. Over the centuries I am sure someone would have discovered that a particular type of wood was causing certain symptoms every time it was used. However if someone suffers from a Nut allergy then it is often the case that contact with any part of the nut or tree can have a dramatic effect.
 

chipmunk

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Neil Farrer":13b7h4tu said:
...so all encompassing claims about the toxicity of Yew should be treated with doubt or total disbelief

Hi Neil,
I think you may be going a bit far there. Just because some extracts of yew are not poisonous in medicinal doses doesn't mean that yew is non-toxic.

The taxine in yew is a well known neuro-toxin...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxus_baccata

This is obviously only anecdotal but I have experienced two bouts of facial numbness, blurred vision and wooziness after turning which I only later linked to sanding yew without adequate dust protection. Luckily it subsided after a couple of days, a visit to my GP and optician, but I am in no doubt that inhaled yew dust in my nose was the cause of the neural disturbance. I now use a respirator, and direct dust extraction when sanding yew.

Interestingly I have turned tambootie often and never had any ill effects but that doesn't mean I would pour scorn on the claims that it's poisonous.

HTH
Jon
 

renderer01

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Jon,
In my opinion you have pasted and copied that part of the document out of context and as a standalone comment it reads not as wrote.
Rend.
 

chipmunk

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renderer01":1lrukt2f said:
Jon,
In my opinion you have pasted and copied that part of the document out of context and as a standalone comment it reads not as wrote.
Rend.

Hi Rend,
Well if I have misinterpreted what Neil was saying then I'll happily withdraw my comment (I did only say I thought he'd gone a bit far) but I have read Neil's post at least 3 times and I'm sure he's suggesting that reports about the toxicity of yew and laburnum are grossly exaggerated.

Jon
 

Kalimna

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As an aside (and I am not convinced that yew, for instance, is dangerous to place in contact with food), the fact that a compound, derived from a plant, is used as a medicine should in fact alert one to its' potential toxicity. Digoxin/digitalis from foxglove, atropine from Deadly Nightshade, for instance. This is not always the case however, and these compounds are frequently in such low concentrations that a heck of a lot of effort is required to produce meaningful amounts. Another compound, derived from yew bark, and used as a cytotoxic drug in the treatment of cancer (quite different to tamoxifen) is one of the most poisonous drugs around - it kills cells to be effective.

Adam
 

Neil Farrer

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chipmunk":1ckh43gj said:
renderer01":1ckh43gj said:
Jon,
In my opinion you have pasted and copied that part of the document out of context and as a standalone comment it reads not as wrote.
Rend.

Hi Rend,
Well if I have misinterpreted what Neil was saying then I'll happily withdraw my comment (I did only say I thought he'd gone a bit far) but I have read Neil's post at least 3 times and I'm sure he's suggesting that reports about the toxicity of yew and laburnum are grossly exaggerated.

Jon

Jon,

You are dead right, the toxicity of Yew and Laburnum are grossly exaggerated, and my slightly flippant comment about water was supposed to emphasise the point that anything that you wish to put inside ones body that was either not supposed to be put there or is put there is excessive quantities will have an adverse effect. That adverse effect we have chosen to ascribe the terminology - Poison - too, a word associated with death, disability and severe illness.

Sorry to hear that you had a severe reaction to Yew dust, but the link that I posted is quite categoric that dust is a severe hazard regardless of its source. We know for a fact that different dusts effect different people in different ways, Cocobolo for instance does not effect me at all, but irritates the hell out of some, However Padauk condemns me to about six days of scratching, and god forbid if I need to pay a visit in the middle of a batch of Padauk turning, this bit is not a joke, nor an outbreak of flippancy believe me! The dust that you inhaled does not mean that Yew is poisonous, and my comment in this sentence does not imply that it is not poisonous, but Yew, wood, dust, leaves, berries (from which you can make a jam) is not poisonous per se.

Your comment, and I am not being critical, is somewhat typical of the way in which the word Poison is proliferated. African Sandalwood, or Tambootie, smells fantastic. Sadly this aroma is the cause of it being overused in that the Indians have burnt most of their own sandalwood at funerals and have now started burning Tambootie. However, if you cook over Tambootie, the smoke of the wood will impart a substance (dare I call it a toxin) into the cooked substance that will at very least give you dysentry like effects and be at best extremely unpleasant. However it doesnt stop me turning Tambootie, nor does the dust give me the desire to run off to the toilet.

My point is Yew, Laburnum and many many others are absolutely fine to use with articles that will come into contact with food, I have made pepper mills, slat mills and others from it without burdening the NHS or my local funeral director. On that point if you consumed food safe oil it would more than likely act as a laxative but at least you wouldn't die of a nut allergy.
 

Dalboy

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I find that I use many woods for contact with food. I am not saying that some are not good for you but for the food that I am using them for will not be in direct contact with the bare wood as they are sealed with some kind of finish. The main items I do get concerned about are things like chopping boards, mortice and pestles(spelling) these items I tend to head towards woods such as beech and oak for example.
 

chipmunk

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Well I think it's all become very confusing but the bottom line is that toxicity is all a case of dosage, probability and individual sensitivity.

I don't know whether you caught the programme "Pain, Pus and Poison: The search for Modern Medicines" by Michael Mosley but that's where I first came across the concept of the median lethal dose or LD50. This is defined as that dose of a toxin that would kill 50% of those taking it. The upshot is that in a randomly selected population some are sensitive to a particular toxin and others are not but one cannot extrapolate based upon limited data, i.e. your own experience, to the whole population, however tempting.

In essence I would argue that the anecdotal evidence that these woods are safe in contact with food is no more reliable than the observation that people we knew smoked all their lives and never contracted lung cancer. It's a numbers game and so is wood toxicity.

For this reason I wouldn't use yew, laburnum or tambootie for that matter in anything that's in contact with food - especially moist or wet food and I wouldn't use it for toys that are likely to end up in a child or baby's mouth. Isn't that just common sense?

Jon
 

Neil Farrer

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Jon,

A pragmatic approach, and I whole heartedly agree with your sentiments on very young children's toys which could be chewed, I would still be more than happy with salt, pepper mills and other vessels being used made of yew and laburnum. I cant get excited out of using wet foods in bowls anyway or drinking from wooden vessels so the issue wont worry me, but since there has not been one recorded death of Laburnum poisoning I will happily eat in peace next time I do so from any wood platter.
 

duncanh

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Neil Farrer":3cs58lzy said:
Jon,
but since there has not been one recorded death of Laburnum poisoning I will happily eat in peace next time I do so from any wood platter.

I sometimes work with someone who told me that when his father was a child he and a group of friends were hospitalised from eating laburnum pods. One of them died. I'll see if I can get more details next time I see him. Obviously this isn't the timber though.
 

Neil Farrer

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duncanh":vhprrw8l said:
Neil Farrer":vhprrw8l said:
Jon,
but since there has not been one recorded death of Laburnum poisoning I will happily eat in peace next time I do so from any wood platter.

I sometimes work with someone who told me that when his father was a child he and a group of friends were hospitalised from eating laburnum pods. One of them died. I'll see if I can get more details next time I see him. Obviously this isn't the timber though.

Whilst I am not disputing anything that you have been told, there have been no reported cases of human death by Laburnum poisoning - source - The Lancet.

There are three thousand cases of admissions to A and E each year as a result of children swallowing (or thought to have swallowed) Laburnum seeds which is odd as they reputedly taste disgusting but there is no accounting for taste! Most of these cases are precautionary and most are unnecessary and are as a result of the belief of the toxic effects of Laburnum - Source - The Lancet.

In that Laburnum seeds are not meant to be eaten, it is hardly surprising that they are likely to make you sick. There are many things that will make you sick but are not treated with the same paranoia as Laburnum. Just because Horses in particular have a tendency to drop dead if they eat Laburnum seeds it doesnt mean your next door neighbour will, unless of course they are quoted at 20/1 on the 3.00 at Aintree.
 
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