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Collation and Review of Information on the Use of Unusual and Non-Traditional types of Wood Used as Food Contact Materials

Institutions
Leatherhead Food International
Start date
1999
End date
2002
Objective
To meet the above needs the project has;
Reviewed published literature on wood species. Conducted a market survey of the uses, and reasons for use, of wood for food contact in the industrial/retail sector and domestically. Carried out analytical testing on woods, identified in the market survey to be used in the manufacture of food contact materials and articles - and including those identified in the literature as having natural toxic properties, together with relevant commercial coatings and finishing products. The first part of the study consisted of an intelligence-gathering exercise on the species of wood used in direct contact with food. It addressed, in particular those items derived from non-traditional or exotic type woods. Leatherhead Food Research Association (LFRA) and TRADA, another research organisation, obtained information, from databases and published research papers, articles and other technical information.

A market survey was conducted to identify the use of wood (including unusual woods) for food contact in the industrial/retail sector. Two questionnaires were designed to establish the type of material or article; the species of the wood; any coatings/treatments that may have been applied to the finished products, and the nature of contact with foodstuffs. They were used in surveys that also investigated the factors that may influence decisions to use wooden food contact materials, and to obtain information on the use of unusual wooden food contact material/articles within the home environment. Four focus-group meetings were held at different regional locations in England and Wales. Quantitative data was obtained via a questionnaire, which was completed by the meetings' participants. This questionnaire was also widely distributed to consumer organisations.

Analytical screening of different wood types used in the manufacture of food contact articles was carried out. This included samples of uncoated wood (identified in the literature as having natural toxic properties) available to the woodcraft industry for manufacture into items that may be used in contact with food. It also included samples from retail outlets of coated, finished wooden food contact articles.

More information
Wood, such as oak and pine, has traditionally been used as a material intended to come into contact with foodstuffs, for example for their storage, transportation and in culinary and kitchen activities. However, the uses of unusual and non-traditional woods for food contact have become more common, it being suggested that decorative and aesthetic properties of these products have added to their popularity. Currently there appears to be little available compiled information regarding the identities and levels of substances present in unusual and non-traditional types of wood. Neither is there much drawn together on substances that are added to these woods in the form of coatings, surface additives or preservatives, which have the potential to migrate into foodstuffs.

The current project has been carried-out to review and collate information on the chemical properties and present day uses of wood, in particular unusual/non-traditional or exotic woods for food contact applications in the UK. From this knowledge of the extent to which wood is used in contact with food, it was proposed to assess the potential for migration of the chemical constituents, of such wooden items, and substances added to these items as coatings, surface additives or preservatives.

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the Food Standards Agency Research webpage.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project number
A03024/25
Categories
Parasites
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Sanitation and Quality Standards