Cutting Boards: Wood v. Plastic
November 18, 2009
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When designing kitchens, I usually try to get my clients to be open about using more than one cabinet or countertop material. I am a big fan of varying cabinetry colors, as well as countertop colors and materials. My first (and safest) suggestion is always wood butcher block. If the client likes that idea, it can go one of two ways. Either they are not going to use it for cutting, or they are. I am a true believer in function, so folks, if you are getting a butcher block countertop, please cut on it!
The reason people object to cutting directly on the wood, is because wood is porous and it absorbs bacteria, while plastic is a much better choice for cutting because it is impervious, right? Well, I too believed this to be true, until I read about a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin’s Food Research Institute, finding that wooden cutting boards kill food poisoning bacteria that survive on plastic cutting boards.
The study began as an investigation on how to “decontaminate” wood cutting boards to make them safe, like a plastic cutting board. What they found, when they placed food poisoning bacteria, on both the plastic and wood boards, was that 99.9% of the bacteria died off on the wood, and none on the plastic. Also when the boards were contaminated and left unwashed overnight, the bacterial count increased on the plastic, but the wood was mysteriously clean with no bacteria.
Another study right here in the Sacramento Area, conducted by Ak, Cliver and Kaspar in 1994 at the University of California at Davis Food Safety Laboratory, also found that wood has anti-microbial properties that seemed to suggest that wood possesses anti-microbial properties that kill surface bacteria in minutes.
So the next time you buy a plastic cutting board, or try to decide whether wood on your island is the right choice, think about choosing the natural material, after all, trees have been here for thousands of years, they must be doing something right.
by Nicolette Patton
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