Is It Time To Change That Cutting Board?

adminHealth/Safety, Restaurant Equipment & Supplies

Cutting boards are a touchy subject! Some people are set on wood, while others are set on plastic. However, now that food safety and food borne illnesses have become a concern in restaurants, the question arises: which type of cutting board is the safest to prevent any issues with cross-contamination?

Wood vs. Plastic

Although there is the perception that plastic cutting boards are safer and easier to clean, research has shown that is not necessarily the case. Multiple cutting board studies were conducted by Dean Cliver and his research team at UC Davis. They found that when both types of cutting boards were inoculated with bacteria, more bacteria was detected from the plastic cutting boards. Bacteria can persist in wood cutting boards, but they do not multiply and will eventually die off.

When referring to wood cutting boards, there are two different types: hardwood (e.g., maple) and softwood (e.g., cypress). Hardwood cutting boards pull the bacteria down into the grains, allowing the bacteria to die off as the board dries after cleaning. Softwood cutting boards are easier on your knives, but also are easier to split apart, creating more grooves in which bacteria can enter. Meanwhile, plastic cutting boards are more susceptible to knife-cuts and deep groves being created when using a sharp knife to cut food. The knife-cuts and deep grooves are where the bacteria like to hide.

What does the USDA Say?

In addition to your typical wood and other non-porous materials (e.g., plastic), the USDA also recommends using bamboo cutting boards. According to the USDA, bamboo cutting boards are the hardest, and are more resistant to deep grooves and bacteria growth. We can cut custom size cutting boards that meet FDA requirements for direct and indirect food contact, is resistant to hot water, and cleaning chemicals, and will not absorb moisture, bacteria or odors. Custom cut to exact specifications.

How to Use

One thing everyone can agree on is that cutting boards should not be mixed. Make sure that you have a designated cutting board for produce items, and a different cutting board designated for meat products. Although raw meat seems like it is of greater concern, you can also have issues with pathogen contamination on your produce cutting board. For example, if you are cutting leafy greens that are contaminated with E.coli 0157:H7 on your cutting board, which is then not cleaned properly afterwards, you have the potential to contaminate the next piece of produce that is cut on that same cutting board.

How to Wash

All cutting boards need to be washed after each use. Both plastic and wood cutting boards can be washed using soap and water. Plastic cutting boards can also be ran through the dishwasher, while wooden cutting boards (without any metal pieces) can be disinfected in the microwave.

It is also recommended that you apply a sanitizer after cleaning: a bleach type for the plastic cutting boards (e.g., diluted Chlorine) and a quaternary ammonium type (e.g., diluted Mr. Clean) for the wood cutting boards. (For help on picking the right sanitizer for you, check out this great resource from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.) Plastic cutting boards tend to be easier to sanitize, while the wooden cutting boards tend to get less deeper grooves to worry about.

After all of this, you have to let the cutting board dry. If it is not allowed to dry properly, the retained moisture will allow for any remaining bacteria to grow.

When to Replace

When your cutting board becomes full of knife-cuts and deep grooves, it is time to consider a replacement, as it is easier for bacteria to enter the cutting board and harder for it to leave. Also, if your cutting board starts to stain, that is another indicator that it is time for a new cutting board.

South Jersey Paper Products offers a wide variety of cutting board thicknesses in standard sizes and can custom make any size or shape cutting board to fit your custom application! They are perfect for Bain Maries or Work tables. Call one of our sales specialists at 1-800-232-6927 today!


Cliver, D. “Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards.” UC Davis Vetmed. Web. 23 July 2017.

“Cutting Boards and Food Safety.” United States Department of Agriculture. 2 Aug 2013. Web. 23 July 2017.

Nese, O. AK, Cliver, D.O., and Kaspar, C.W. (1994) Cutting Boards of Plastic and Wood Contaminated Experimentally with Bacteria. Journal of Food Protection: January 1994, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 16-22.

Nese, O. AK, Cliver, D.O., and Kaspar, C.W. (1994) Decontamination of Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards for Kitchen Use. Journal of Food Protection: January 1994, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 23-30.

Shipman, M. “Fast Facts About Cutting Boards and Food Safety in Your Kitchen.” NC State University. 23 Sept 2014. Web. 23 July 2017.