Mar 22, 2013

Another Food Myth Debunked

Never Use Wooden Cutting Boards with Meat. This comes from the thought that using a wooden cutting board will result in tiny scratches and cuts from your knife, and if you use that cutting board with meat, especially raw meat, that all those meat juices will settle into the tiny cuts in the board and cause germs. The solution proposed is to use plastic cutting boards, which can be dishwashed and sanitized, and therefore must be safer.

There is much research that disputes this myth. One of the most famous studies was conducted by Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D of the UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory. His research points out that there is no significant antibacterial benefit from using a plastic cutting board over a wood one. He notes that even if you apply bacteria to a wooden cutting board, its natural properties cause the bacteria to pass through the top layer of the wood and settle inside, where they are very difficult to bring out unless you split the board open.

Although the bacteria that disappeared from the wood surfaces are found alive inside the wood for some time, they do not multiply and gradually die. They can be detected only by splitting or gouging the wood or by forcing water completely through from one surface to the other. If a sharp knife is used to cut into the work surfaces after used plastic or wood has been contaminated with bacteria and cleaned manually, more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface.

Dr. Cliver's study tested 10 different hardwoods and 4 different plastic polymers. It found, if you want a plastic cutting board, anti-bacterial property is no reason to buy one. If you want a wooden cutting board, bacterial infection should not scare you away.

Bottom line: It is more important that you properly clean and disinfect whatever board you buy, regardless of what it is made of. Cutting boards touted as being coated or made with anti-microbial chemicals or materials are mostly not.