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Healthy Home Basics - Cutting Boards: Plastic or Wood?

By HHI Staff

Plastic or wood - which is best for cutting boards? Surprisingly, research indicates they are similar in their ability to support bacteria. Whichever you choose, it's important to remember that if your board acquires deep cracks or cuts, replace it. Bacteria thrive especially well in these hard-to-clean locations.


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A better recommendation is to buy two cutting boards: Use one only for protein foods (meat, cheese, eggs, etc.), and the other for non-protein foodstuffs. Protein residues can become contaminated with bacteria much more readily than non-protein foods. So, by following this two-board procedure, you’ll be far less likely to unknowingly contaminate your breads, fruits, and vegetables.


Cutting Boards and Food Safety



Which is better, wooden, or plastic cutting boards? Consumers may choose either wood or a nonporous surface cutting board such as plastic, marble, glass, or pyroceramic. Nonporous surfaces are easier to clean than wood.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline says that consumers may use wood or a nonporous surface for cutting raw meat and poultry. However, consider using one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. This will prevent bacteria on a cutting board that is used for raw meat, poultry, or seafood from contaminating a food that requires no further cooking.



Cleaning Cutting Boards      


To keep all cutting boards clean, the Hotline recommends washing them with hot, soapy water after each use; then rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards and solid wood boards can be washed in a dishwasher (laminated boards may crack and split).



Both wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.



Replace Worn Cutting Boards  


All plastic and wooden cutting boards wear out over time. Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be discarded.



Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline



If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or visit the USDA Web site.



Of course, it’s important to wash all cutting boards (wood or plastic) frequently and thoroughly. This is especially important after cutting raw meat or cooked eggs. Washing your cutting boards in the dishwasher helps to disinfect them. Also, pouring a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide (the type commonly sold in drug stores) over a washed cutting board, rubbing it into the surface, then rinsing, can reduce bacteria colonization. Another tactic is to rub a half lemon on the surface of your cleaned cutting boards. The acid in the lemon acts as a sanitizer and helps counter odors.

If you’re in the market for a wood cutting board, consider a close-grained, low-odor hardwood such as maple, sold in most local kitchenware departments and kitchen/gourmet cooking stores. If you find the “woody” odor of your new cutting board objectionable, wash it several times with a plant-based dish soap and/or with baking soda and water. Then rinse it completely, towel dry, and place it outdoors in the sun to air for a few days. (Be sure the surroundings are dry and uncontaminated.) When the odor is no longer bothersome, bring the board inside, wash and rinse it thoroughly, let it dry, and begin using it.


(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Healthy House Institute, LLC.)


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Healthy Home Basics - Cutting Boards: Plastic or Wood?:  Created on October 3rd, 2007.  Last Modified on February 27th, 2011


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