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Forest Products Extension

Is it OK to use a wooden cutting board?

Yes! While there has been some debate over whether plastic is better, it is safe to use a wooden cutting board for food preparation.

Poisonous bacteria can exist in raw meat, but they will be killed if the meat is properly cooked. A possibility of food poisoning arises when these bacteria are transferred to uncooked foods during meal preparation. For example, this “cross-contamination” could occur when vegetables for a salad are cut on a board that was previously used for cutting infected chicken.

The question is whether wooden or plastic cutting boards are more likely to harbor harmful bacteria, even after being cleaned. Some have suggested that it is “just common sense” that a porous material like wood would be harder to keep clean than plastic. It turns out that testing does not necessarily support this assumption. In fact, some studies have suggested that used wooden cutting boards are less friendly to bacteria than used plastic boards. Other studies have shown plastic to be slightly easier to clean.

One of the more recent studies on this issue concluded that wood and plastic are about the same in terms of food safety, and that other factors – e.g. price and durability – will be more important when choosing a cutting board. And the Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) Food Code states that “hard maple or an equivalently hard, close-grained wood” may be used for cutting boards and other restaurant food equipment.

Regardless of what material you choose, the following steps are recommended: use different cutting surfaces for raw foods that require cooking and wash and dry your cutting boards after use.

An example of a beautiful and practical wooden cutting board

Adam M. Taylor
Tennessee Forest Products Center
2506 Jacob Drive
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996

Phone: 865-946-1125
Fax: 865-946-1109

Adam Taylor's email