Is wood more hygienic than plastic?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The lie about plastic

We have been told, including by the so-called experts, that plastic is by far more hygienic than wood as wood being a natural material. It is hardly surprising seeing how man-made materials and especially plastics of all kinds were and are feted as the be all and end all.

cutting-boardsAs far as plastic chopping boards and kitchen utensils are concerned it is very difficult indeed to get them to go moldy or such but does that really mean that they are better? No, for this is about the only advantage of a plastic chopping board compared to a wooden one. But then again you do not have to leave your wooden chopping board laying about in the damp. After you clean it you hang it up, as people used to do it.

As said, and here ends the good part of plastic as to chopping boards and other things in the kitchen. At least since Plastic Planet and other criticism as regards to plastic and especially the noxious chemicals that it contains that constitute a risk to health plastic has lost its celebrity status.

Wood is more hygienic and environmentally friendly

While it is true that there are some woods that should on no account come into contact with foods during chopping and cutting – as fruit bowls many of those will be fine – such as Yew and Horse Chestnut and a few others as they are poisonous most woods, however, have very high antibacterial and antiseptic properties and the leading one here is the much maligned Sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus) and the heartwood of the Pine (Pinus silvestris). Other woods too exhibit the same antibacterial properties, though some to a somewhat lesser extent.

Wood, in comparison to plastic and also stainless steel, which often contains heavy metals such as chromium and nickel – that's why using cast iron for cooking pots and pans is so much better than anything else – is biodegradable in that wooden utensils can be simply put onto the compost heap at the end of their life to return to the Earth (or burned). Plastic, as we all know, does not biodegrade and cannot be composted (regardless of what industry is trying to tell us) and even stainless steel needs to be recycled in an energy intense process.

Some decades ago all the butchers and catering establishments have been forced, by law, to throw out all their wooden blocks and boards but some clever souls decided to carry out a test – so I have been told – and they dumped a culture of salmonella each onto a wooden butcher's block and onto a plastic block and left them overnight. The ones on the plastic one apparently had read Genesis and had gone forth and multiplied while the ones on the wood were all rather dead. Killed by the tannin in the wood and the fact that wood, be water absorbent, had deprived them of their growing medium, namely moisture.

There you have it. Not only does wood look good, it also is good, and especially in the kitchen. You can now, with a clear conscience, dig out those wooden chopping and cutting boards that you put way, clean them gently, sand them down and oil them and use them again.

© 2014