Safest Cutting Board Material Wood Plastic or Glass?
Which Cutting Board is Right for You?
E-Coli, salmonella, and other food related bacteria have food contamination concerns at the forefront of kitchen cleanliness and cutting boards are a primary location where these bacteria are frequently detected. Kitchen safety and ease of cleaning are two primary reasons we select the cutting board surface that we do.
With the array of choices offered to consumers it can be a little confusing to know which cutting board material is the best for your kitchen. So let's take a look at a few of the benefits and concerns that come along with each board.
We now have the option of wood, stone, plastic, marble, and glass chopping boards and each of these has its own unique safety and ease of use issues to take into account when selecting which is the most appropriate for your home.
Food Safety Studies on Wood and Plastic Cutting Boards
Originally it was a wood chopping block that was considered the way to go in food preparation but times have changed. With other cutting surfaces now making their appearance in the kitchen research studies were initiated to see exactly which board surface would keep consumers the safest from food borne bacteria.
The first studies focused on wood and plastic cutting surfaces and applied equal amounts of e-coli and salmonella bacteria to both. The cutting boards were left to sit and then tested to see which maintained the largest numbers of these bacteria.
It was discovered that the bacteria not only thrived on the plastic surface but that it also multiplied. On the wood cutting board these same bacteria tended to disappear within three minutes of application. Cleaning each of the tested materials with hot soapy water successfully killed the bacteria on both types of cutting board.
When the first cutting board safety studies were conducted it was concluded that wood surfaces had anti-bacterial properties and that the bacteria within these wood cutting boards began to die off within a minute of application. This lead researchers to release results stating that wood cutting boards were the safest cutting surface.
Second Wave of Bacteria in Cutting Board Safety Studies
Wood was the material originally thought to be the safest as a food cutting surface but with the creation of glass and plastic cutting boards it became a little more difficult to figure out which product really was best for the kitchen.
The first cutting board research indicated that wood boards were the best to fight food borne bacteria but later research would change this theory.
The next cutting board safety study proved that instead of bacteria dying off of the wood cutting boards it was instead being absorbed into the wood and so still very much able to potentially infect any food placed on its surface. The live bacteria was no longer contaminating the surface of the wood cutting board but was still present and live within the material itself. This brought up new concerns that this hidden bacteria could reappear at a later time to contaminate future food being set onto it.
This discovery then returned the verdict that plastic surfaces were the safer cutting board alternative. Concerns about the still live bacteria living within the wood cutting board and it being able emerge at a later time contrasted sharply with the safety of the plastic boards. A cleaning with hot soapy water effectively removed the applied bacteria from the plastic material.
Getting the Facts Can Sometimes be Confusing
It was realized that previous safety studies had always been conducted on new unused cutting boards. This brought up the thought that perhaps the research may be inaccurate because it did not accurately reflect the boards used in most households.
New studies were then set up to test the bacteria contamination levels on used cutting boards. It was felt that this study would best mimic the way cutting boards were used in most households. This product testing would once again dramatically change the results of the original kitchen safety studies. The results were very unexpected.
The wood cutting board surface once again showed the disappearance of bacteria as it again retreated deep within the wood of the cutting board. The surprise result in cutting board safety was in the results from the plastic board testing.
The cuts made from knife scarring into the plastic cutting board made the scarred surface difficult to clean. The plastic cutting board surface retained its surface bacteria even after being thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water.
So Which is the Safest Material?
The experts are still not in total agreement on the issue of which boards are safest but overall research maintains the conclusion that wood, plastic, and glass cutting surfaces can be equally effective at controlling food related bacteria.
Of course that finding applies only if each of these cutting boards is cleaned thoroughly between the cutting of each food item and when the board is replaced at regular intervals or at the first signs of wear and tear.
A study conducted in California in June of 1995 of sporadic cases of salmonellae in older children and adults found that families who were using wood cutting board surfaces in their homes were less than 50% as likely to contract this food borne illness compared to those families which used plastic or glass cutting board surfaces. Families who used glass or plastic cutting board surfaces were close to twice as likely to contact salmonella.
Each Kitchen Should Use a Minimum of Two Cutting Boards as This Insures that Meat is Kept Separate From Other Foods
New studies recommended that a minimum of two cutting boards be used in each kitchen. One cutting board for meat preparation while the another cutting board is used exclusively for vegetables and bread. This would considerably reduce the risk of contamination from food related bacteria.
Maintaining a Clean Board is Very Important
Deep Cleaning is Important for Prevention of Food Born Illness
Plastic and glass cutting boards can generally also be safely cleaned in the dishwasher. Most manufacturers are putting this into their design but check labeling to be sure yours is dishwasher safe.
To clean plastic, wood, or glass cutting board surfaces by hand it is recommended that you use a solution of one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. One part vinegar to four parts of water is an equally good disinfectant for cutting board surfaces. Apply the solution, let it sit on the surface for a couple minutes and then remove it with hot soapy water.
The wood boards remain my favorite. I have always used them for my kitchen needs but have for the past few years also been using a tempered glass cutting board. The glass, marble, and stone surfaces tend to dull knives quite quickly so take this factor into account when selecting the type of board you will use.
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