About Wood-Food

Wood has traditionally been used for centuries in preparation and for packaging, storage and transportation of food. Since wood is an absorbent and porous material, the hygienic properties of wood are disputed. Furthermore wood is said to be more difficult to clean and sanitise than other materials.
Results from R&D projects show however that wood has good hygienic properties. Good manufacturing quality, good handling practise and proper sanitation treatments surely make wood a suitable material for most applications in the food industries. The results necessitate a review of the existing guidelines and regulations  for the use of wood in the food industry.
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Wood used to be the most common material for packaging, workbenches, shelves, tools, buildings, interiors etc, in the food industry in the Nordic countries. The use of wood has however decreased, and other materials like plastic, concrete, stainless steel and aluminium have taken its place. The reason for this negative development seems to be declining market demands, partly caused by legislation in Europe and elsewhere. Despite this, nearly 1,5 million cubic meter of timber per year is used for pallets and packaging in the Nordic countries.

Based on that background, a Nordic research project was initiated to find out more about the behaviour of wood in contact with foodstuff. The Nordic study financed by Nordic Industrial Fund, national funds and wood industries started 1998  was completed 2002.
The Danish Technology Institute, Icelandic Fisheries Laboratories, The Norwegian Institute for Wood Technology, The Norwegian Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture, The Swedish Institute for Wood Technology Research and Swedish Wood carry out the research. Representatives from food surveillance institutionsin the Nordic countries were invited to the project meetings and were kept informed about the progress and results of the project.
Pallet manufacturers, sawmills, woodworking industries and users of wooden constructions, pallets and packaging were also involved.
The main object of the project was to collect data regarding wood products and their substitutes when used in the food industry, and to find suitable methods to identify and measure the growth of bacteria on wood and their substitutes. These results and other studies support that wood  is good to use in the food industry - both in utensils, interiors, and buildings as well as in pallets and packaging.

Laboratory results from both Germany and Switzerland also show that wood is as good as any other material. In fact these studies show that bacteria have a greater capacity to survive on plastics than on wood. Certain types of wood had superior hygienic qualities over plastics. Field studies in the food industries in Germany showed lower overall microbiologic load on wooden hygiene pallets than on plastic pallets after 6 months.