GET ON BOARD

What’s bet­ter to use to pre­vent food-borne ill­ness – a wooden or plas­tic cut­ting board?

Health & Nutrition - - NUTRITION & FOOD -

You’ve prob­a­bly heard this ques­tion be­fore, and have prob­a­bly got­ten dif­fer­ent an­swers. You’re not alone – even ex­perts dis­agree on what’s best. On the one hand, some re­search sug­gests that wood is the way to go. And that a wooden board con­tam­i­nated with Lis­te­ria (from raw chicken) trans­ferred fewer bac­te­ria to cooked chicken sub­se­quently placed on the board, com­pared to a plas­tic board. It was the­o­rized that the pores in wood trapped and im­mo­bi­lized the bac­te­ria – after which they pre­sum­ably died. More re­cently, how­ever a 2011 study in Let­ters in Ap­plied Mi­cro­bil­ogy found that both smooth wooden and plas­tic boards re­tained sim­i­lar lev­els of bac­te­ria after chicken con­tam­i­nated with Campy­lobac­ter je­juni was placed on them. But if the boards were gouged, the wooden ones ended up more con­tam­i­nated than the plas­tic ones, and they trans­ferred more bac­te­ria to cooked chicken sub­se­quently placed on the board. The bot­tom line: All cut­ting boards are vul­ner­a­ble to con­tam­i­na­tion re­gard­less of the ma­te­rial – and ei­ther a wooden or plas­tic one is okay as long as you keep it very clean and in good con­di­tion. To that end… After each use, scrub your cut­ting board in hot, soapy wa­ter, then rinse and al­low it to air dry or pat it dry with a clean cloth or pa­per towel. Do not store un­til it is com­pletely dry. Plas­tic boards and solid wooden boards are dish­washer-safe, but lam­i­nated boards (made from more than one piece of wood) can crack and split. Take note of clean­ing in­struc­tions that of­ten come with new cut­ting boards. As an ex­tra safety mea­sure, you can dis­in­fect both wooden and plas­tic cut­ting boards with a mild bleach so­lu­tion (one ta­ble­spoon of un­scented chlo­rine bleach in about 4 litres of wa­ter). Pour the so­lu­tion over the sur­face and let it sit for a few min­utes; then rinse well and dry. Con­sider bam­boo boards. Bam­boo (tech­ni­cally a grass) is less por­ous than hard­woods, re­sists knife scratches, and is an en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able re­source. If your cut­ting board has cracks, crevices, chips, or grooves where bac­te­ria can hide, it’s time for a new one. Oil­ing a wooden board reg­u­larly (with min­eral or wal­nut oil, for ex­am­ple) helps pre­vent cracking. Us­ing a clean cloth, rub the oil into the wood, along the grain; use as much oil as the board will ab­sorb, then wipe off any ex­tra. To avoid cross-con­tam­i­na­tion, re­serve one cut­ting board for raw meat, poul­try, and seafood, and another for vegetables, fruits, bread, and other ready-to-eat foods that will not be cooked.

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