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Cutting Boards Reviews and Research

Total of 25 Sources
1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Jan. 1, 2008
Bacteria on Board
by Editors of Cook's Illustrated
Our AssessmentCook's Illustrated asks an independent lab to test wood, plastic, bamboo and composite cutting boards for bacteria retention and finds no major difference among materials. Editors say they're all safe as long as they're washed thoroughly. The magazine does find that the bamboo has some natural bacteria-killing properties but it still needs to be washed.
2. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Sept./Oct. 2004
The Truth About Cutting Boards and Bacteria
by Editors of Cook's Illustrated
Our AssessmentThis article is no longer available on the Cook's Illustrated website but is reproduced on several other websites with the permission of Cook's Illustrated. It's essentially the same information as contained in the 2008 article above; there's just more detail about the testing. The gist is that the cleaning method, not the board's material, is the more important factor.
3. Rodale
April 14, 2009
This or That? Wooden vs. Plastic Cutting Boards
by Emily Main
Our AssessmentRodale, publisher of magazines such as Prevention, goes to the usual source for information about cutting-board bacteria: Dean Cliver of the University of California, Davis. Since the mid-1990s, Cliver has maintained that wood cutting boards are more sanitary, and he hasn't changed his position. In an interview, he says some dishwashers merely redistribute the bacteria to other items and that the only way to clean deeply scarred plastic cutting boards is to soak them overnight in bleach. 
4. NineMSN
Nov. 27, 2006
Which Chopping Board Is Worse For Spreading Germs?
by Leila McKinnon
Our AssessmentThis Australian website asks University of California, Davis, expert Dean Cliver to test wood, plastic and marble cutting boards for bacteria. He says the plastic board harbors the most germs and the wood the fewest. Marble is criticized for being tough on knife blades.
Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards
by Dean O. Cliver
Our AssessmentThis page summarizes studies by Dean Cliver, a professor of food safety who is the most frequently cited expert about cutting boards from a health perspective. His studies show that hardwood cutting boards are safest because wood has some properties that trap and kill bacteria. He says new plastic boards are easily disinfected but that scarred plastic boards can harbor germs.
The Microbiology of Cleaning and Sanitizing a Cutting Board
by O. Peter Snyder Jr.
Our AssessmentO. Peter Snyder Jr.'s tests of maple, plastic and stainless-steel cutting boards indicates that stainless steel is the most sanitary (the study doesn't address the fact that stainless-steel cutting boards harm knives). This study also recommends white vinegar as the best cleaning agent.
7. British Food Journal
The Safety of Wooden Cutting Boards: Remobilization of Bacteria from Pine, Beech, and Polyethylene
by Dominique Boursillon and Volker Riethmuller
Our AssessmentThis British study tests pine, a softwood, and beech, a hardwood, against a polyethylene cutting board. The study finds that "pine exerted antimicrobial abilities faster than beech and showed better performance than both beech and polyethylene. The differences between beech and polyethylene were only marginal."
8. Food Safety Magazine
Aug./Sept. 2007
Creating a Great Cutting Boards and Wipe Rag Program
by Robert W. Powitz
Our AssessmentRobert W. Powitz is a forensic sanitarian and an adjunct professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. He offers no strong opinion about wood versus plastic cutting boards, but does note that if wood is the choice, it should be hardwood and properly seasoned with mineral oil. He also suggests that separate boards be used for different foods (meat and produce. for instance), that boards be cleaned with a bleach solution every four hours when in continual use during a day, and that all wood and plastic boards wear out eventually and need to be replaced.
9. Food and Drug Administration
Updated Dec. 5, 2008
How Should You Select and Use Cutting Boards
by Editors of Food and Drug Administration
Our AssessmentIn this very brief blurb, the Food and Drug Administration says any smooth, non-porous surface can be made safe if cleaned properly. However, it cites no testing in saying: "Plastic is less porous than wood, making it less likely to harbor bacteria, and easier to clean."
10. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Updated Feb. 18, 2008
Food Safety: Cookware and Equipment
by Editors of U.S. Department of Agriculture
Our AssessmentThe USDA says unspecified "research shows that nonporous surfaces, such as plastic, marble, tempered glass, and pyroceramic are easier to clean than wood." It notes that even plastic wears out over time and needs to be replaced when it does.
Food Appliance Features
by Sharon Franke
Our AssessmentSharon Franke is director of the Kitchen Appliances and Technology Department of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. She says cleaning methods are more important than a cutting board's material, and she recommends letting antibacterial cleansers or a bleach solution remain on the board for at least 10 minutes before rinsing it off.
12. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Jan. 1, 2008
Cutting Boards
by Editors of Cook's Illustrated
Our AssessmentCook's Illustrated tests a dozen cutting boards made from bamboo, hardwood, softwood, composite wood laminate, polypropylene and glass. But the emphasis is on usability and durability. Although "cleanup" is a category, there's no mention of how much bacteria each board harbored.
13. Chow.com
Feb. 15, 2007
Wood's Poor Cousin
by Louisa Chu
Our AssessmentChef/writer Louisa Chu tests an unspecified number of plastic cutting boards and recommends three. Testing did not include bacterial analysis but rather how well they performed, including durability and odor retention. In general, Chu says polyethylene cutting boards didn't hold up as well as polypropylene, but she also recommends a silicone cutting mat.
14. Chow.com
Feb. 2, 2007
On the Chopping Bock
by Louisa Chu
Our AssessmentLouisa Chu reviews one hardwood cutting board, one bamboo and one composite (laminated paper). Each has its advantages, but Chu picks the traditional hardwood because it's pretty, durable and dream to cut on. Unfortunately, the specimens for each category appear to have been picked out of a hat -- there's no indication whether other hardwood, bamboo and composite boards were considered.
15. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Aug. 1, 2005
Flexible Cutting Mats
by Editors of Cook's Illustrated
Our AssessmentCook's Illustrated editors say they use separate cutting boards in its test kitchen to avoid cross-contamination, as do many restaurants. As an alternative to having multiple cutting boards at home, editors suggest flexible cutting mats that can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
16. CulinaryIntelligence.com
May 30, 2005
Cutting Remarks -- Bamboo Cutting Boards
by Joseph McConnell
Our AssessmentJoseph McConnell tests the Totally Bamboo Malibu Groove Vertical Grain board and finds that knife scratches wiped away easily, but the cutting board warped after about a week, making it too unstable for safe cutting.
Wooden Versus Plastic Cutting Boards
by G. Steven Jones
Our AssessmentNo firsthand testing is evident, but the Reluctant Gourmet does a helpful and balanced job of rounding up the arguments in favor of plastic cutting boards and wood cutting boards. No conclusion is reached (he says he uses both), but, he adds, "I can say unequivocally that you should stay away from decorative metal and glass cutting boards" because they will harm the knives.
18. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
July 1, 2001
Cleaning Cutting Boards
by Editors of Cook's Illustrated
Our AssessmentThis article focuses more on eliminating odors (such as garlic) than killing bacteria. In testing, scrubbing with a paste made of baking soda and water works best.
Cutting Boards, Chopping Blocks and Butcher Blocks
by Linda Stradley
Our AssessmentCookbook author Linda Stradley discusses the two major types of hardwood cutting board construction, end grain and flat grain. Most helpful is the roundup of various disinfectants and cleaning methods that you can use. There's no indication of extensive testing, but this is a good clearinghouse for the aforementioned information.
20. The New York Times
Oct. 2, 1996
Of Cutting Boards and Cleanliness
by Florence Fabricant
Our AssessmentThis newspaper article quotes experts as saying, contrary to a Center for Science in the Public Interest newsletter article, that sanitizing a wood cutting board by microwaving it may not be a good idea. There is a danger that the wood could catch fire or even explode.
21. The New York Times
Jan. 28, 2004
Squeaky Clean? Not Even Close
by Amanda Hesser
Our AssessmentIn yet another article quoting University of California, Davis, expert Dean O. Cliver, Cliver warns that many dishwashers do not get hot enough (no less than 140 degrees) to kill all bacteria. He also says that some wood cutting boards have metal inside, and thus it could be dangerous if you try to sanitize them by blasting them in a microwave.
22. About.com
Plastic Vs. Wood: Which Cutting Boards Are Better?
by Danilo Alfaro
Our AssessmentCulinary school graduate and private chef Danilo Alfaro, About.com's guide to culinary arts, offers no testing or scientific proof that plastic cutting boards are more sanitary, or that studies that show the opposite are inconclusive. He takes issue with a University of California, Davis, study that says the bacteria absorbed by wood cutting boards were "presumed dead." Still, there's no getting away from the fact that lots of people are as squeamish about wood as Alfaro is. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Plastic vs. Wood Cutting Boards
by Editors of University of Missouri Extension
Our AssessmentThe University of Missouri Extension cites unspecified studies that dispute earlier studies that claim wood cutting boards are safer than plastic. This brief article says, "Contrary to earlier studies, the bacteria didn’t die in these wooden boards." But without specifics, this story is not as credible as those that name the studies they cite.
24. University of Georgia
Food, Hands and Bacteria
by Estes Reynolds
Our AssessmentWithout citing any studies, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences says, "Don’t use wooden cutting boards -- they can’t be cleaned properly."
Selecting a Cutting Board
by Editors of SharpeningSupplies.com
Our AssessmentThis article offers no new or independent information about the sanitary qualities of cutting boards (although the issue is addressed). But it does say wood will do less damage to knives than plastic, and that glass, marble or ceramic boards will damage even the best knives.
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