Bacteria and Your Cutting Board
When I plan to visit a restaurant, I first look to see how they scored on sanitation and food safety. No one wants to eat in a restaurant with a kitchen that’s not cleaned, but often people don’t realize that bacteria is lurking in their home kitchen.
Fridge shelves, the sink, cutting boards, your sponge, dish towel, and even your dishwasher if it is set on low heat can all harbor bacteria.
When the Department of Health and Environmental Control inspects commercial kitchens, they make sure foods are cooked properly, held at the right temperature and cooled or re-heated correctly. They also check to be sure employees wash their hands, and keep work surfaces and sinks sanitized.
One of the worst culprits for germs to hide in commercial and home kitchens is the cutting board.
When choosing between wood or plastic cutting boards, people want to know which one is better. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear because studies on which is best offer conflicting results.
Wood Cutting Boards
Wood cutting boards naturally draw bacteria below the surface, leaving it clean and germ free, and some types of wood have natural antimicrobial properties. However, germs drawn below the surface can multiply and leach into food placed on the board.
Plastic Cutting Boards
The benefit of plastic is that it is nonporous which means bacteria stays on the surface. Plastic cutting boards are dishwasher safe, which makes them easily sanitized. The downside is that knives can leave cuts or gouges in the surface of the cutting board which can harbor bacteria. Here they can grow and multiply and become hard to remove.
Since research offers conflicting results, the best thing is to dedicate a cutting board for raw meats and another for vegetables and fruits. After each use, be sure to scrub the cutting board with hot, soapy water. Don’t leave your cutting board in standing water though because this encourages bacterial growth.
Every once in a while, sanitize plastic cutting boards with a chlorine solution, and for wooden boards use a vinegar/water solution.
Photo credits: Wilson Hui