As I was auditing a restaurant last week that carry out a lot of raw meat preparation.

I stopped at the traditional style butchers block and had a chat with the chef (who was in the process of prepping some meat) about the block, how it’s cleaned etc.

His eyes were desperately glaring in to me, and I could sense him pleading with me not to make a recommendation to replace the wooden board with a plastic alternative.

As I don’t really have a view, I went back to the office and googled the pros and cons of both wooden and plastic boards and how they support bacterial mulipication.  However there is much conflicting info on the web and it seems over the years there have been various  studies / opinions / reports

A Professor in the 90’s in California took a wooden and a plastic chopping board and smeared them with bacteria, cleaned them with detergent then tested them to see how many bacteria he could recover from the surface.   The study showed that disease bacteria were not recoverable from the wooden surface in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used unlike their plastic equivalent which harbourd more bacteria when the board was damaged / cut

Over the years we seem to have been lead to believe that plastic boards are safer but according to the Food Standards Agency this is a myth.  They recommend thorough cleaning, replacement of damaged boards and of course separate boards for raw and ready to eat foods

To summarise there doesn’t appear to be any strong evidence that one type of chopping board is more or less hygienic than another.  The reccurant factor about any board is that it is in good condition and able to be cleaned.   What is your view? GRF Associates are happy for wooden boards to be used for butchery if the following guidance is followed;

Wooden chopping boards must be;

  • – made of smooth, washable, corrosion resistant and non-toxic material
  • – constructed in a way that will minimise the risk of contamination
  • – kept clean and disinfected
  • – replaced when damaged

On-going care and maintenance of wooden chopping boards;

  • – sand or plane the board to keep the surface smooth
  • – periodically use course salt and a sanitised brush
  • – to prevent the wood from cracking, periodically apply a small amount of mineral, almond or walnut oil (baring allergies in mind) with a lint free cloth in the direction of the grain (vegetable oil should not be used because of its rancidity)