There are many different products to finish your projects with. What types are food safe and what should one look out for when finishing a project that needs to be food safe?
There are many different kinds of finishes that are food safe. It turns out most finishes once dried or cured are food safe to one level or another.
Most finishes that cure are only food safe after they have finished curing which, sometimes can take quite a while, days, weeks, for some months.
Many of the food oil finishes are very food safe, peanut and walnut oils for example. However, these are not hypoallergenic, since people with nut oils can react to the finish in the wood. Though people with extreme allergies could even react to the walnut wood itself.
Natural waxes are excellent food safe finishes that are also hypoallergenic. Bees wax is a good one and apparently paraffin is also a good one, even recommended for cutting boards, which means with the knife in contact with the top it, you are sure to get some mixed in with the food.
My favorite wax is Carnuba wax, it is claimed to be the most hypoallergenic wax out there and it is also the strongest/toughest natural wax known.
Most waxes and oils are, in themselves, food safe in indeed may of them are in fact food ingredients. The complication is that products used for finishing may contain additives and solvents which are potentially toxic although solvents, which by their nature disappear once the finish is cured tend to be less of a issue than drying agents.
The best advice is to look for products which are specifically sold as being food safe this can be confirmed by checking their safety data sheets.
Solid waxes are generally fine as are are unadulterated plant derived oils such as tung oil and linseed (flax) oil.
Paraffin and carnuba waxes are routinely used as coatings and release agents for confectionery etc.
You get food grade finishing ingredients in raw (eg oils and waxes) form fairly easily from craft and catering suppliers as they are widely used in confectionery and cosmetics and blend these to make the type of finish you want.
Alternatively many wood finish brand have specifically food safe products as there is clearly a high demand for fruit bowls, chopping boards etc.
When turning wood, I use paraffin blocks to finish the projects. I hold a solid block against the turning piece and make sure that everything is coated. Then I take a clean cloth and buff the turning piece up. The only downside in my opinion is that it doesn't penetrated the wood very deep this way.