Cutting boards and food safety

How safe is your cutting board? Use these tips to help you maintain cutting boards and choose new ones.

One of the most dependable tools is our kitchen are cutting boards. We may have used a particular board for a very long time and maybe we are partial to certain types such as wood, plastic or glass. So why should we replace our cutting board?

First, what is considered a safe cutting board? Can I use my plastic board or the wooden board I was given as a gift? There are many things to consider when you are making these decisions.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined that a solid piece of wood, plastic, marble, glass or pyroceramic are options for cutting boards. USDA recommends using a bamboo cutting board because it is harder and less porous (so it absorbs less moisture) than hardwoods and is easy to clean. Important factors when choosing a cutting board is that the board is able to be cleaned, washed, rinsed and sanitized.

If you think you need to replace a cutting board, use this information to to help:

  • Are there deep grooves or cut marks on your current cutting board? The board may need to be replaced since bacteria can grow in deep grooves.
  • If you want a new wooden cutting board, look for one that is made from a single, solid piece of wood.
  • When choosing a new board, consider how porous the material is and if is it considered safe to sanitize.

When using a cutting board Michigan State University Extension recommends using different cutting boards for specific tasks. For example, use one board for meat only and a different board for vegetables. These boards can be labeled for their different uses or they can be color coded. This lets everyone know what board to use for which task.

To safely clean a cutting board: Remove all debris from the board and then wash it in hot soapy water. Rinse the board thoroughly and sanitize it because this is a surface that will come in direct contact with food. The USDA indicates that even wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized.

To sanitize a cutting board: Use a mixture of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach and a gallon of water, saturate the board and let it sit for a few minutes. After a few minutes, thoroughly rinse the cutting board and then let it air dry. If you must dry the boards, use a single-use paper towel to pat it dry.

A cutting board should be considered a hazard for food contamination unless it is properly washed, rinsed and sanitized. Replace any cutting boards that show signs of overuse. Disposable cutting boards can also be effective as they are used only once and then thrown out. Take some time to consider how to keep your cutting board from contaminating your food.    

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