Wooden boards and plates may seem attractive vessels on which to present foods but can harbor germs. You might already avoid meals served on gimmicky platters that can’t adequately hold your meal. The thought of your gravy trickling off a board isn’t the only reason to be wary though. Wood and bacteria can be best buddies. However, don’t throw your wooden goods out of the kitchen just yet.
What’s the big deal with food on wood?
A restaurant in Birmingham has been issued a £50,000 fine for serving food on wooden boards, leaving people concerned over whether they should dump their wooden chopping boards, salad bowls, and other utensils at home. The council in the restaurant’s hometown declared the practice increased the risk of food poisoning, but are they right?
Wood and hygiene
You might know health experts recommend people use separate chopping boards for preparing raw meat and vegetables because of the risk of cross-contamination. The suggestion applies whether you use plastic or wooden surfaces. Wood is best for fruit and vegetable preparation since you can pop plastic boards used for meat in the dishwasher but wooden boards can’t cope with the heat.
The hygiene problem that got the restaurant mentioned in trouble probably arose, not because kitchen equipment or serving dishes were made from wood but due to scratched or damaged surfaces. Grooves in wood are ready-made homes for bacteria and difficult to clean. As long as the wooden surfaces you use are in good condition and cleaned and aired after use, they should be fine.
How to clean wooden kitchen tools
Rinse and then scrub items with soap to remove debris and germs. Next, according to food safety researcher Ben Chapman “use a quaternary ammonium sanitizer, such as a solution of Mr. Clean and water” before finishing the job by drying items well.
Further hygiene tips
Chapman advises people to use hardwood material rather than softwood kitchen goods that come into contact with food. Softwoods “pose a greater safety risk.” It’s easier to split softwood with a large grain than hardwood and increase the chances of introducing health hazards.
If wooden chopping boards or other kitchen tools made of wood have grooves or splits, ditch them. Getting the bacteria out of them is tough and you don’t want to be ill.
It seems there’s good news if you have a favorite wooden chopping board. There’s no need to get rid of your boards and other wooden kitchen tools, but for safety’s sake, remember to check they are in good condition and clean them properly.