Food-Safe Glues

This Viewer Question comes from Danny who writes:

How do I tell which wood glues are FDA approved for using with a wood cutting board? Watched your video on making one and you recommend using Titebond III. I bought a tube but no where on the label on the bottle does it say it is approved for food use. Great site and thanks for the inspiring how to videos.

And here was my reply:
Hey Danny. If its not on the bottle itself, I would just do a little investigation on the web. Most companies will give a lot more product information on their websites. For instance, check out this info sheet on Titebond III. You should see “FDA Approved for indirect food contact” in the bulleted list.

I know that Gorilla Glue also claims to be FDA approved so you might look into their products as well. So in the future, check the associated website. FDA approval is a feature and a benefit so if you can’t find anything about it on their spec sheets, they probably don’t have it. But honestly, Titebond is really the only glue I use for food items anyway. Polyurethane glue is not my friend for various reasons. Good luck.

So, what’s your preferred glue for food contact?

Category: Safety

Comments

  1. Dan June 29, 2009

    I’d be hard pressed to think of any common glue that is toxic once it has set. Epoxy is totally inert once it has hardened. As is, I believe, resorcinol and urea formaldehyde . Casein glue is made of milk by products. Super glue has even been used in surgery. I believe they used hide glue on the postage stamps we used to lick. Library paste?

    Well–many decades ago they used to use red lead paint as a form of adhesive in boat planking. But I don’t think you can even buy it anymore. And of course, some uncured glues can be extremely toxic.

  2. Zach June 30, 2009

    I used Titebond II when I made my cutting board.

    Does anyone else think that guy’s thumb is abnormally long?

  3. atemp July 7, 2009

    From the MSDS, Titebond III is a PVA polymer glue with 2-(2-butoxyethoxy)ethanol as a solvent/carrier. Despite what the brochure says, this is a Listed hazardous substance. As a solvent it passes readily through the skin, so wearing gloves would definitely be prudent. It is also toxic to fish, so dumping it where it can reach waterways would be poor eco-stewardship. And it is inflammable, so no smoking!

    The PVA portion is a skin, eye, and lung irritant and should not be inhaled as sanding dust.

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer July 7, 2009

      The FDA-approval pertains to the final cured product, not the glue in the liquid state. So just like film finishes, they are pretty nasty in liquid form but relatively benign once fully cured.

  4. Zippy December 18, 2010

    atemp said:

    “ethanol as a solvent/carrier. Despite what the brochure says, this is a Listed hazardous substance”

    Of course ethanol is the hazardous substance in Beer Wine and Spirits. There are plenty of things that can be considered as hazardous or toxic, especially if you take context out of the discussion. Water is hazardous if you try to breathe it, or if you drink too much of it. In that vein, since carrots contain water, a hazardous substance, I should avoid using it and should wear gloves when eating them. LOL

    • Jim K October 11, 2012

      Your concerns should mainly be on handling the liquid glue, because all these products have something you shouldn’t be eating, drinking inhaling out of the bottle. Things change in a big way once glue “cures” which is more than just drying out. Chemical changes occur which make reactive compounds stable. Often this is part of a polymerization – a small compound becomes part something larger, which is solid or at least too big and happy to dissolve into your food. Not every small reactive molecule does this, but nearly all the ones that don’t undergo other reactions that make them less dangerous. The important thing is that you let things dry as long as you can, then repeatedly wash all surfaces with water, detergent, hot water if it needs to stand up to heat, and sometimes vinegar is also a good idea. (Never use bleach unless you want to disinfect, and then wash away in a minute or two – never soak glue or wood in bleach).

      TitebondII, has a small amount of a pretty unpleasant chemical, N-methylolacrylamide – this washes away if it’s not bound to the solid glue or it hydrolyzes (loses the “methylol”) but the acrylamide left behind is also not nice stuff and needs to be washed away. Before and after washing, low-temperature baking (in sunshine or after > 24 hours drying in your oven’s warming drawer is usually a good idea.

      Environmental issues: 2-butoxyethanol and 2-butoxyethoxyethanol (glycol ether DB) ARE NOT THE SAME as ethanol – these are different substances entirely, more toxic than ethanol but not extremely so. The amounts present are really small and if they will almost certainly be broken down by soil bacteria or bacteria in the sewage system (those egg-shaped vessels in water treatment plants are digesters, partly intended to scrub the thousands of trace chemicals nobody could ever imagine keeping from getting into the sewage system. (Not the same as irresponsible dumping of larger amounts by industries or individuals.)

      When butoxyethanol is broken down by bacteria, the products will be carbon dioxide (a teensy weensy amount compared to what you breathe out every day), possibly making formaldehyde first, but this will be either oxidized further to CO2 or taken up by bacteria to make folic acid, a vitamin) plus butanol (similar to ethanol – also more toxic but easily broken down further to CO2 or acetic acid = vinegar)

      Bottom line: whatever glue used, dry well and wash thoroughly and rely on our little microscopic friends to handle the few milligrams of other stuff you wash away.

      • Colleen April 5, 2014

        Thank you for such a thorough response. I appreciate it greatly!

  5. Og January 6, 2011

    To be safe, also better to wear a mask when eating a carrot.

  6. My husband is refinishing our wood cutting boards and finishing them off with Minwax indoor/outdor Helmsman Spar Urethane. Is this finish safe for food cutting boards?

    •  

      Hi Mary Ann. While I consider any film finish “safe when cured”, I don’t think Helsman Urethane is a good choice for a cutting board. Generally speaking, most folks shy away from creating a film on their cutting boards. This film can be sliced and cracked and will eventually peel and harbor bacteria. So one of the best finishes is simply mineral oil and wax.

      Now I do have a varnishing method that I use on my end grain cutting boards only. You can read about that here: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.co.....rd-finish/
      But I still wouldn’t want to use Helmsman for that finishing method. I just get nervous when there are too many additives and things like UV inhibitors that just don’t need to be there on an interior food prep surface.

  7. Has anyone used plastic resin glue on cutting boards.

  8. martino April 1, 2013

    any thoughts on gorilla glue?

  9. Bob Stillman October 18, 2013

    So I am making my first cutting board. I am attempting a 3d cube effect board, but noticing a few gaps on the board. The YouTube video, I am using as tutorial, claims to fill gaps with super glue. The Scotch 3M super glue I have is not FDA approved. Can you help me pick a safe super glue for cutting boards?

    I used the titebond 2 for gluing wood together. I assume the super glue is to fill gaps to prevent bacteria from growing deep in the cutting board. Can I use the Titebond to fill those gaps?

    •  

      I would stick with CA glue or epoxy, personally. Titebond doesn’t work so well as a gap filler. And good luck finding an FDA approved super glue. That’s not to say that it’s unsafe though. I’m guessing it just isn’t worth their time/money to pursue FDA approval. But when used as a gap filler, so little of the glue will come in contact with food that I can’t imagine it being a problem. Stuff seems pretty inert once cured.

  10. Victoria February 13, 2014

    I have a wooden recorder with a small piece coming off the mouthpiece, the part that goes into my mouth to play the recorder… I’m looking for a safe, non-toxic wood glue to fix it… hopefully by Sunday Feb. 23, 2014… Just cause I need it for Friday Feb. 28th for a show that I’m using it in… Please Help.

    •  

      Most wood glues are safe for indirect food contact. But I’m not sure I would recommend having it in your mouth for an extended period of time. If we ‘re talking about a thin glue line, it’s probably not much contact surface area so it’s probably alright.

  11. Art June 5, 2014

    check out http://www.gluehow.com/recommendation/Wood/to/Wood
    it lists a couple FDA approved food-safe glues. I generally use Titebond III for everything.

  12. TT October 14, 2014

    What is CA glue? I made an end grain maple/walnut cutting board and there is a small crack I need to fill. Trying to decide between titebond 3 and glue mixture vs some type of glue. This was the first post I saw about CA glue but wasn’t sure what it was or where I could get it. Any info would be great as I want to get past this step prior to application of Mineral Oil. Thanks!!

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