The recent scare about salmonella in our food products reinforces my simple idea that controlling my own food using my own recipes is one of the safest practices around.
I don’t know about you, but I have never gotten sick from preparing food from family recipes in my own kitchen. (I have been very sick from restaurant food and such, but never once have I had a bout with salmonella or E. coli from fixing food and family recipes at home.)
Having an ultra clean kitchen (not!), or having hand-sanitizers everywhere in the house is not the main reason I have avoided salmonella or E. coli contamination. I think it is my clean-as-you-go-with-hot water procedure that has most likely saved me from unpleasant illnesses, especially on my cutting boards. (I always have a hot kettle, even though my instant hot is used obsessively, too.)
Back in the early ’90s I was fascinated by a report that claimed wooden cutting boards in the kitchen were health hazards. So everyone tossed their wooden cutting boards. A few years after that, plastic cutting boards were the darling of kitchen cooks everywhere
Then, in the mid-’90s, scientific studies redeemed wooden cutting boards somewhat. A report said that wooden cutting boards were bacteria-free in just three minutes after use and cleaning, whereas plastic cutting boards were bacteria harbors. (Instead of absorbing bacteria-nurturing moisture, like wood does, plastic cutting boards reportedly enabled salmonella bacteria to move around, incubate and multiply on kitchen surfaces.)
So, it was back to the wooden cutting boards for those who secretly hid theirs (when being PC, politically correct, wasn’t even in our vocabulary.)
More recent microbial reports on wooden and plastic cutting boards have compromised and suggested the cutting board type is not as important as how well a cutting surface is cleaned after use. Duh! Here are some of the more recent scientific reports:
University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Hospitality Institute of Technology & Management
That being determined, it remains a bit scary to know that commercial kitchen sanitation (which should be superior) is most likely not set up to constantly clean and disinfect wooden, plastic, stainless steel and other non-porous surfaces with the most basic cleaning technique of soap and hot water.
No wonder our food handling and food production plants have salmonella or E. coli problems. Their gleaming stainless steel counters and plastic surfaces are probably over-sanitized but under-cleaned. And what about plastic gloves, isn’t it logical that unchanged plastic gloves can also transfer bacteria instead of preventing it from spreading?
As for me, I use wooden cutting boards when preparing food from family recipes. Always have, always will. I wash them with soap and hot water when I use them, and every so often I squeeze on lemon juice and add salt, and let them sit awhile before scrubbing with a brush — an old-fashioned “exfoliating” treatment I found in an old family cookbook that seems to work.
Like I said, I’ve never battled salmonella from my own kitchen.
Knock on wood.
Read more about the battle between wood vs. plastic cutting boards at these websites:
What’s Cooking America
About.com – Culinary Arts
Vermont Cutting Boards
U.C. Davis Food Research Laboratory
University of Missouri Extension