Which is better at preventing a foodborne illness outbreak—a wooden or plastic cutting board? This is a long-standing food safety question. Some research suggests wood is a better option, because the pores in the wood can trap and immobilize bacteria, which then die. Other studies, however, suggest bacteria absorbed in wooden boards can in fact survive and could possibly multiply and recontaminate the surface in the future, making plastic seem superior.
The take-away message is that all cutting boards, plastic or wooden, can be sources of contamination. To help prevent contamination, your cutting board needs to be clean and in good condition.
- After each use, scrub your cutting board in hot, soapy water, then rinse and allow to air dry.
- Using the dishwasher to clean plastic and solid wooden boards is fine, but laminated boards can crack in the dishwasher.
- Wooden and plastic cutting boards can be disinfected with a bleach solution (1 tablespoon traditional regular chlorine bleach [6% sodium hypochlorite] per gallon of water or 2 teaspoons concentrated bleach per gallon of water). Pour solution over the surface and let sit for at least one minute; then rinse well and air dry.
- It is time to get a new cutting board if your board has cracks, crevices, chips, or grooves where bacteria can hide.
- Designate one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and another for vegetables, fruits, breads, and other ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
For more information, visit the Iowa Food Safety website: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/
Sources: University of California, Berkley Wellness Letter (December 2014) Food Safety Tips for Food Event Volunteers SP 452: https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/Food-Safety-Tips-for-Food-Event-Volunteers