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Which Cutting Boards Are Best?

Updated on December 18, 2017
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Chris describes and reviews books, music, merchandise, even laws as a result of personal experience.

Which Wood is Best for a Kitchen Cutting Board?

Source

Wood Cutting Boards Leave Kitchen Knives Sharper

Many people are concerned about what the knife does to the cutting board by leaving cut marks in the wood. But the real issue is what the cutting board does to the knife by dulling it. Wood is soft and allows the knife to cut into it rather than scraping across a hard surface. By using a quality, food safe, wood conditioner, cut marks can be repaired in your kitchen cutting board.

What is the most important issue when it comes to a kitchen cutting board?

Cutting boards. We all use them. Is yours wood, plastic, glass or marble? There are different ways at looking at this particular choice.

  • Which material will leave knives sharper longer.
  • Which will allow the least amount of slippage of things being cut.
  • Which will promote the least bacterial growth.

Source

In this article, the focus will be solely on discovering which cutting board material most effectively inhibits the growth of bacteria. It is common knowledge that wood is supposed to have inherent antibacterial qualities. But are all woods really equal in this area? Could it be that one or two kinds of wood are more effective at fighting the growth of bacteria? Lets take a look at a paper written in Germany, based on a scientific study, which sheds a lot of light on this issue.

First I want to give some of the parameters of the study so that you feel comfortable that this is a serious report.

Who performed the study and wrote the report?

  • Annett Milling-Institute for Plant Virology, Microbiology and Bio-safety, Federal

Biological Research Center for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA),

Braunschweig, Germany.

  • Alfred Wulf and Kornelia Smalla-Institute for Plant Protection in Forests, Federal

Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA), Braunschweig,

Germany.


Woods used in the study:

  • Scots pine
  • Norway spruce
  • European larch
  • black poplar
  • sycamore maple
  • pedunculate oak


More details about the wood:

  • Wood was taken from the area of Braunschweig, Northern Germany.
  • Cut into 2 cm thick boards
  • Dried at ambient temperature for 6-12 months
  • Converted to sawdust
  • Moisture content was measured throughout the study
  • Moisture content was standardized at 2%
  • Sawdust was dried and disinfected prior to each experiment.
  • Polyethylene (plastic) chips were used as reference material.

Source

About the Bacteria Being Studied

Bacteria:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Enterococcus faecium (E. faecium)
  • Both are hygienically relevant

Inoculation of wood and plastic:

  • sawdust (from the wood chosen for the study) and polyethylene chips were sprayed with a pricise amount of bacteria
  • Two inoculations of each test were performed.
  • Cell density in inoculum was adjusted before inoculation.
  • moisture content at inoculation was 50%.
  • Incubation was at 21°C.

Survival of Bacteria on the various woods and plastic:

  • At fixed time intervals, wood particles and plastic chips were collected into steerile plastic bags with an extraction buffer.
  • Each sample was spread on plates of growth media.
  • Incubation period was 24-72 hrs
  • Incubation temperature was 37°C

How to Utilize the Following Tables

In the tables below, the growth of E. coli and E. faecium bacteria in the laboratory, controlled setting are rated in terms of Logs. The higher the Log number, e.g. 9, the lower the bacteria count (a good thing). Of course, the lower the Log number, e.g. 2, the higher the bacteria count. Also, a certain level of bacteria reduction will be reached in a certain amount of time. I have entered time elements into the table as well.

Effect of Various Woods on E. coli Bacteria

 
Log 2
Log 3
Log 4
Log 5
Log 6
Log 7
Log 8
Log 9
Pine
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
No cultural bacteria after 24 hrs
Oak
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
No cultural bacteria after 48 hrs
Spruce
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24 hrs. Bacteria level high for days
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Larch
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24 hrs. Bacteria level high for days
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Maple
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24 hrs. Bacteria level high for days
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Poplar
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24 hrs. Bacteria level high for days
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beech
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24 hrs. Bacteria level high for days
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Plastic
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24 hrs. Further reduction after several days
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Microbiology Lab-Bacteria Colony Count

Source

Effect of Various Woods on the Growth of E. faecium Bacteria

 
Log 9
Log 8
Log 7
Log 6
Log 5
Log 4
Log 3
Log 2
Pine
 
 
 
Good bacterial reduction reached w/i 24hrs. Effect continues until bacteria permanently gone.
 
 
 
 
Oak
 
 
 
Good bacterial reduction reached w/i 24hrs. Effect continues until bacteria permanently gone.
 
 
 
 
Spruce
 
 
 
 
 
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24hrs. Process continued until complete reduction in 7 days
 
 
Larch
 
 
 
Good bacterial reduction reached w/i 24hrs. Effect continues until bacteria permanently gone.
 
 
 
 
Maple
 
 
 
 
 
Minimal bacterial reduction reached w/i 24hrs. Process continued until complete reduction in 7 days
 
 
Poplar
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
bacteria still high after 7 days
Beech
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
bacteria still high after 7 days
Plastic
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rise in bacteria for first 4 days. Reached maximum level at 7 days.

Some Conclusions

The scientists who conducted the study and wrote the paper end, saying that more study needs to be done to gain a deeper understanding of the antibacterial properties of wood.

But can we take some information from this research and apply it to our homes and to the wellbeing of our families? I believe this is appropriate. So what lessons can we learn and what practical steps can we take to reduce the opportunity for introducing dangerous bacteria into our food?

  1. It is clear from the study that pine and oak have superior antibacterial capabilities than any of the other woods or plastic. Pine clearly performed best in the study, even over oak.
  2. Pine is the only material in the study that effectively inhibits E. coli growth within 24 hours.
  3. Along with larch and oak, pine effectively inhibits E. faecium within 24 hours.

The charts make very clear that not all woods are equal in their antibacterial capabilities. The wise choice, from the standpoint of inherent antibacterial capability, would seem to be pine. The study also showed that pine’s ability to inhibit bacterial growth was enhanced when the heartwood was used as opposed to the sapwood.

Possibly another hub will involve comparing pine to glass and marble as possible materials for cutting boards. Good luck with your decision as to what to do with your current cutting board.

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