Cutting board: Wood, Plastic, or Glass | Which is Safer ?
It can be more than a little confusing to know which cutting surface is the safest to use in your home.
Outbreaks of E-coli and Salmonella have food safety concerns at the forefront of kitchen safety and our cutting boards are a primary location to have these bacteria spread.
It is very important to protect yourself and your family from E-Coli, salmonella, and other food related bacteria so knowing which cutting board surface is the safest really is important.
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Studies on Bacteria and Cutting Boards.
Wood was the first material thought to be the safest for food cutting surfaces but with the creation of glass and plastic cutting boards it has became a little more difficult to figure out which cutting board surface is the safest to use.
With other cutting surfaces now being used in the kitchen research studies were initiated to see exactly which board surface would keep consumers the safest from food borne bacteria’s. "The first studies applied equal amounts of e-coli and salmonella bacteria to both wooden and plastic cutting surfaces. The cutting boards were left to sit and then tested to see which was the safest for human use."
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 boards 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 wooden 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 researcher to believe that wood cutting boards were the safest cutting surface for cooks to use. Food safety now being a primary concern of the kitchen."
Second Wave of Studies on Bacteria and Cutting Board Safety.
The first cutting board research seemed to indicate that wood cutting boards were a very safe surface to use to fight food borne bacteria but later research was to change the theory that wood cutting surfaces were safer than the newer plastic models.
The next cutting board safety study proved that instead of dying off, the bacteria on the wood cutting boards was actually absorbed into the wood, so still very much able to potentially infect food.
The live bacteria were no longer causing contamination to the surface of the wood cutting board, but was still present, and existing within the board itself. This brought up new concerns that this hidden bacterium could reappear at a later time to contaminate food being worked on the wood cutting surface.
This discovery then returned the verdict that plastic surfaces were indeed 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 with the surface cleaning of plastic cutting boards with hot soapy water effectively removing the applied bacteria from its surface area.
New Studies Changed the Results of the Original Cutting Board Study
It was then realized that cutting board studies had always been conducted on unused or new cutting boards and that perhaps the research may be inaccurate for this reason. So new studies were set up using used cutting boards. It was felt that this would best mimic the way cutting boards were used in most households. The results of this new cutting board study 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. The cuts made from knife scarring into the plastic cutting board made the scarred surface difficult to clean.
The plastic cutting board surface retained it’s surface bacteria even after being cleaned with hot soapy water.
A study conducted in California in June of 1995 of sporadic cases of salmonellae in older children and adults there, 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.
So is Glass Cutting Boards the Safest Alternative?
Overall research maintains the conclusion that wood, plastic, or glass cutting surfaces were equally effective at controlling food related bacteria. With the inclusion that each of these cutting boards were cleaned thoroughly between the cutting of each food article, and that the board is replaced at regular intervals, or at first signs of wear and tear.
The finished studies also recommended that two cutting surfaces be used in a household. One cutting board should be used for meat preparation and another cutting board used exclusively for vegetables. This would considerably reduce the risk of contamination of food related bacteria.
To clean plastic, wood, or glass cutting board surfaces 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, then remove it with hot soapy water.
I have always used a wood cutting board but have recently switched to a tempered glass cutting board.