I’ve already written on the overuse of antibacterial products, but it is true that food prep is one area where we really do need to take precautions about bad bacteria. According to the National Food Safety Database, a fifth of all food-borne illnesses originate in the home, and the majority of people surveyed did not know even basic steps for keeping their food prep areas clean.
Your Strategic Defense System
Bad bacteria doesn’t stand a chance if you have a good cutting board system. That’s right, a system — but I don’t mean you have to spend your fortune on some new antibacterial gizmo. You just have to be strategic about the boards you do have. However, unless you’re vegan, it’s not a good idea to have just one cutting board you use for everything. Cutting raw meat or chicken on a board can leave behind bad bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli, which can then transfer to any veggies that are cut on the same board.
A better system is to have a separate cutting board that you use only for animal products. Every time you use it either run it through a hot dishwasher or clean it with hot soapy water. Then keep another cutting board just for veggies. This one should also be washed thoroughly after each use.
Types of Cutting Boards
The most common types of cutting boards are wood and plastic. The obvious advantage to plastic is that you can run it through the dishwasher while it’s better to wash wood by hand. However, studies have shown that wood cutting boards generally harbor less bacteria than plastic boards. And plastic boards with cuts in them are even worse.
Since it’s a good idea to reduce our consumption of plastics as much as possible, here’s a good place to look for other options. You can find cutting boards made from reclaimed woods, sustainable grasses like bamboo or even from recycled glass or wine bottle corks.
Regular washing with hot soapy water and a scrub brush is generally good enough, but if you want to go the extra mile, here are three green options to fight bacteria:
- Create your own nontoxic antibacterial spray by combining one cup of water with 12-15 drops of tea tree or lavender oil. Both essential oils have antibacterial properties. Spray the mixture onto the cutting board and let dry.
- Or sprinkle coarse salt on the surface of the board and scrub with a cut lemon. The salt makes a great scrubber that gets into crevices while the lemon sanitizes.
- Alternatively, coat the board in distilled white vinegar and let it dry
So forego the pesticidal wipes and cutting board coatings. With a little strategy and good green cleaning practices, there’s no need to worry about food safety in your home.