Is Tung Oil Food Safe Enough To Eat Off?

Tung oil has been used for centuries to protect wood from water-damage. Extracted from Tung tree seeds, this durable finish can be applied onto everything, from table tops to cabinets.

Now, one of the main reasons why Tung oil is so popular, is because it’s easy to apply. And, once it has cured, you’ll end up with a beautiful finish.

But, appearances aside, how does this clear oil stack up when it comes to being food safe?

Well, in this post, you will learn what really goes into a Tung oil finish. And you will find out why you must always double check the label of any so-called ‘Tung‘ oil product.

And keep reading to discover the best food safe oil you can use on a cutting board.

is tung oil food safe

This post may contain affiliate links to products that we receive a commission for (at no additional cost to you). Learn more here.

What Is Tung Oil Made Of?

Tung oil is a natural oil, because it’s crushed from Tung tree seeds. And this oil, in its 100% pure form, doesn’t contain any hidden additives or chemical dryers.

Tung tree seeds, however, are incredibly toxic. And so likewise, the oil extracted from them is equally unfit for human consumption.

How Toxic Is Tung Oil? Can It Make You Sick?

Yes it can. That’s because in its raw liquid form, pure Tung oil is very poisonous. So, you do not want it getting into your food in any way shape or form.

What’s more, not all Tung oil products on the market are even Tung oil. Many of them market themselves as such. Yet, unless the label specifically reads ‘100% Pure Tung oil’, that wood finish is likely anything but.

You see, these fake-Tung oil products are more like Teak oil in their makeup. They contain a blend of natural oils, chemical thinners, varnish and other additives. Some may contain a bit of Tung oil. Others, may not.

These fake-Tung oil products are also very toxic in their liquid form. Which is why you should make sure they never make their way onto your dinner plate.

Related Post: Can You Use Tung Oil On Cherry Wood? (Avoid These 3 Simple Mistakes)

3 Reasons Why Woodworking Is So Goo...
3 Reasons Why Woodworking Is So Good For You
What About When It Dries? Is A Dried Tung Oil Finish Safe To Eat Off?

Provided that Tung oil finish has dried and cured, then it is safe enough to eat off. However, the key word here is ‘cured’.

A dry oil finish is one that has turn from a liquid into a solid, (yet still soft to the touch), film coat. This film coat can still feel a little greasy. So, in this dry state, (which takes Tung oil around 1-2 days to achieve), it is not a food safe surface.

However, a cured oil finish is one that has changed into a durable hard resinous coat. It takes Tung oil much longer to cure, up to around 30 days.

Yet once Tung oil has cured, there are no greasy spots, and no softness to the finish. This cured surface is food safe enough to eat your dinner off of.

But, that does not mean Tung oil is suitable for a food prepping surface.

Is Tung Oil Safe For A Cutting Board Or Butcher Block?

Tung oil finishes are durable, but they aren’t the most hard-wearing finish. They can be scratched fairly easily. And while Tung oil is water-resistant, it is not waterproof. So it can suffer from water damage too, if it gets repeatedly drenched.

So, using Tung oil to coat and seal a cutting board is a bad idea all round. Why? Because your chopping kitchen utensils will slice right through this finish. And that runs the risk of little tiny bits of cured Tung oil resin getting into your food.

What’s more, washing your cutting board will rinse off that Tung oil finish in short order. Typically, Tung oil finishes need a regular reapplication every 6-12 months to keep them maintained. However, if you keep rinsing that Tung oil finish, it won’t last even half that time.

is tung oil food safe

So, What Kind Of Food Safe Oil Can You Use On A Chopping Block?

By far, 100% pure food grade mineral oil is your best and safest option for any cutting board.

This non-drying oil is a non-toxic highly refined version of petroleum, (also known as petroleum distillate). This petroleum product has been filtered to within an inch of its life, making it safe for human consumption.

And as a non-toxic oil, mineral oil makes a food-safe wood finish.

But, What Makes Mineral Oil A Great Wood Finish?

Mineral oil protects wood in a similar way to Tung oil. Both oil finishes sink into wood grain, and coat wood fibers with a water-repellent liquid. This will stop wood fibers from absorbing moisture, preventing wood rot and decay.

However, while Tung oil will eventually dry and cure, mineral oil won’t. Instead, mineral oil will forever remain in its greasy liquid form.

So, as a wood finish, mineral oil is the go-to choice for sealing food prep surfaces. Used on butcher blocks and chopping blocks alike, this oil will never dry or go rancid.

What’s more, mineral oil is much easier to apply (and reapply) than Tung oil. You don’t need to wait around for it to dry and cure. And it doesn’t need multiple coats to fully saturate cutting board timber either.

You can find 100% pure food grade mineral oil on most any local pharmacy shelf. But, full disclosure, this stuff is typically sold as a laxative. So, be prepared to get the odd funny look, if you decide to buy this stuff by the gallon. 🙂

To Wrap Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…

  • 1). Tung oil comes from the seeds of Tung trees. These seeds are toxic to humans.
  • 2). After a Tung oil finish is cured, it becomes a food safe surface.
  • 3). However, Tung oil isn’t suitable for a chopping block. You run the risk of little Tung oil resinous bits getting into your food.

References:

Tung Seed – Uses, Side Effects, and More | WebMD.com