Plastic, Wood or Bamboo: Which cutting surface is right for you?
03.19.14 Plastic, Wood or Bamboo: Which cutting surface is right for you?
Read why we love Bamboo, and selected our uniquely sustainable supplier, Bambu.Then tell us if you’d like to replace your plastic cutting board with bamboo… you could win a big new bamboo cutting board and more. Along with $100 for your school!
There’s so much information out there about what kind of cutting board is the best, we’d be surprised if you haven’t given the question a second thought. Unfortunately a lot of the information is conflicting, which can be confusing and frustrating.
For instance, numerous articles on the internet state that wood cutting boards are banned from commercial kitchens. This is not actually true (across the board, anyway, local regulations may differ). Current FDA regulations not only allow wood cutting boards in commercial kitchens, they don’t address the use of plastic equipment at all, let alone authorize it. Since FDA safety standards require that surfaces must not allow the migration of harmful substances into food, we think plastic should at least be questioned.
After weighing the pros and cons of the three most common options, we choose bamboo. Specifically Bambu, beautiful and responsibly made bamboo products from China.
Plastic vs wood cutting boards
First, let’s look at safety.
Many argue that plastic is safer because it can be cleaned more aggressively, i.e. run through the dishwasher and doused with bleach. But plastic scars easily and the bacteria goes into hiding in those cuts and scratches where it can multiply in peace. Wood and bamboo, however, have naturally antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria, even those that penetrate the surface. (Though bamboo is technically a grass, it shares many qualities with wood, including being strong, durable, and antimicrobial.)
This anti-microbial property can have a direct impact on your family’s health. One case study found that on the average, people using wood cutting boards were half as likely to contract salmonella as the general public. While those using plastic, doubled their chances!
A UC Davis study showed that worn wooden cutting boards functioned pretty much the same as new wood, which could not be said for plastic. Furthermore, damaged wood and bamboo surfaces can be sanded and re oiled to restore their surface whereas plastic just gets furrier and more gross over time.
Our general position regarding the safety of plastic touching food is consistent and clear: avoid it if possible. And never let hot food touch plastic (like that chicken or roast you just pulled out of the oven). Our concerns about chemicals in plastic aren’t new; you can read more about them here. And we just have to wonder; where does all that plastic that scratches and wears off your cutting board go, anyway?
Why bamboo is even better than hardwood
Botanically speaking bamboo is not a wood, it’s a grass. So even though it shares a lot of the same great properties with wood, it’s generally much more sustainable when grown responsibly. Hardwood takes forever, and much needed forests are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate. Bamboo grows incredibly fast, up to 3 ft a day, requires no pesticides, and thoughtful harvesting leaves behind a blanket of roots and new plants that will grow without replanting.
Bamboo also has a very clean, modern and beautiful appearance. It’s elegant enough to do double duty in the kitchen and at the table. And the inherent beauty of the natural material is uniquely revealed in each piece.
Meet our supplier: Bambu
We know: Most bamboo comes from China. It’s necessary to question whether anything that is imported from halfway around the world can be sustainable. Though it’s an extremely complicated issue, ultimately we feel that the answer is yes. Everything has to be weighed… making plastic cutting boards uses petrochemicals, they need replacing more frequently, and cannot be recycled. Procuring hardwood threatens forests. Mass production of bamboo has developed the predictable hazards of every other monoculture. Once we put it all on the scale, finding Bambu tipped us in favor of Bamboo.
Bambu’s founders are American, and chose to relocate to China in order to create a sustainable “local” business—utilizing local craftspeople and materials. Being local allows them to interact with their employees daily and oversee operations directly, assuring the highest quality standards, safe working conditions and socially responsible business practices. They visit their suppliers regularly to ensure that their high environmental standards are being met.
Ultimately, the cutting board you use comes down to personal choice. Use your head, and decide for yourself. Or, let your heart be your guide… you just might fall in love with bamboo! Enter our giveaway below and you could win $100 of beautiful Bambu gear, plus $100 for your school!
FDA retail food code 2013: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/UCM374510.pdf
Kass, P.H., et al., Disease determinants of sporadic salmonellosis in four northern California counties: a case control study of older children and adults. Ann. Epidemiol. 2:683-696, 1992.
Summary of UC Davis Study: http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm