Is Polyurethane Food-Safe?
I’m planning on finishing a set of
wooden plates with polyurethane. Is
this finish safe for food?
According to finishing expert Bob
Flexner, all finishes are food-safe once they
have cured. Polyurethane varnish does not
present any known hazard.However, no finish
is food safe until it has fully cured.The rule of thumb
for full curing is 30 days at room temperature (65- to 75-
The question of food safety in finishes revolves around the
metallic driers added to oils and varnishes to speed the
curing process. Lead was used as a drier many years ago,but
now lead is banned.
There is no evidence that today’s driers are unsafe.No case
of poisoning from finishes containing these driers has ever
been reported. The Food and Drug Administration approves
the use of these driers in coatings, and no warnings are
required on cans or Material Data Safety Sheets.
Several oil and varnish products are marketed as “food or
salad-bowl safe.”This implies that other finishes may not be
safe, but that’s simply not true. Some of these specially
labeled products have no driers added to them (and they take
quite a long time to dry!), but the rest actually contain the
same kinds of driers as other oils and varnishes.