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April 16, 2020

There is a long-term controversy on the safety of using hardwood cutting boards in food preparation.

 

This review demonstrates that the porous nature of wood, especially when compared with smooth surfaces, is not responsible for the limited hygiene of the material used in the food industry and that it may even be an advantage for its microbiological status. In fact, its rough or porous surface often generates unfavorable conditions for microorganisms.

Florence Aviat, Christian Gerhards, Jos´e-juan Rodriguez-Jerez, Val´erie Michel, Isabelle Le Bayon, Rached Ismail, and Michel Federighi
“Microbial Safety of Wood in Contact with Food: A Review”
2016/03/07
Microbial Safety of Wood in Contact with Food: A Review
DO – 10.1111/1541-4337.12199
JO – Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety

As described in this review based on 86 references, wood is suitable for direct food contact.

Most of the studies described in this review are about the first use and reuse of wooden boards. This seems to be the consequence of an opinion that links the porous nature of wood with a hygienic trouble. Indeed, there is a great deal of evidence that porosity is an advantage for the microbiological status of wood in contact with food, even when processing food. In fact, its structure generates surface cavities that can trap bacteria in a state unfavorable for their survival, so bacterial growth is extremely limited. The rough or porous surface of wood is also an advantage for controlling the level of surface moisture.

On one hand, new wood is perfectly suitable for food contact if appropriate storage conditions are chosen. On the other hand, reused wooden surfaces must undergo an appropriate cleaning process. For instance, kitchen worktops are generally considered a critical point in food processing. Regardless of the surface material, working surfaces need to be constantly maintained and monitored for cleaning and disinfecting.

 

There is no evidence for an increased microbiological risk when properly maintained wooden cutting boards are used at home or in gastronomic units (Loecke and Skowyrska, 2015). Nevertheless, cleaning procedures (hand wash vs. use of dishwasher) should be always adjusted according to the material of the boards. Hence, the instructions of the manufacturers on cleaning and maintenance should be followed, to ensure optimal performance and safety of the food preparation.

 

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