Avoid Cross Contamination On Your Cutting Boards

Cross contamination kitchen cutting board food safety culture

Article contributed by Rada Tarnovsky, Letter Grade Consulting


Recent reports claim that 80% of store bought chicken is contaminated with Salmonella…. Yummy! …Not!!!

Cross contamination is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness and cutting boards are a major culprit.  Keeping that chicken separate from vegetables is not only a good idea it could be a life saving one.

Choosing the right board, knowing when to change it and how to properly clean it, could be overwhelming.  The following can help you navigate:

Not all boards are created equal…

When purchasing cutting boards, make sure to choose ones with rounded corners that will not break or chip. Boards made of very hard material can dull knives, however boards should be hard enough that knives cannot easily leave gashes, as gashes can harbor bacteria. A non-porous smooth hard surface that is easily cleanable is ideal to help prevent cross contamination.

Wood or Plastic? The debate has gone on forever.  Although there are good arguments that can be made on both sides, we recommend going with plastic.  Yes, plastic will have to be replaced more often, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

To replace or not…

Winter Fancy Food Show November 2018 728×90

In time, all boards become damaged or gouged, making them difficult to clean and impossible to sanitize. Besides being a food safety hazard, gouged cutting boards are violations that can result in money fines or worse jeopardize your “A” grade.  But how gouged is gouged?  Good question, and one many operators (and inspectors) struggle with. The following are some ways you can tell if it’s time to say farewell

  • Take a damp cotton swab, rub it gently over the surface of the board, if any fibers get stuck to the board, it’s time.
  • If boards are permanently discolored;
  • If you rub your hands over the board and it feels rough
  • And if you’re still not sure, you can always count on the good ol’ “when in doubt,
    throw it out” rule

Proper Cleaning….

The best way to prevent cross contamination is to designate separate boards for meat and foods that will not be cooked before serving (vegetables/breads).  Color coding is an excellent way to keep track.  Even if you do color code and separate, properly cleaning and sanitizing boards is mandatory.  Here’s how-

  • After all food is scraped off, clean and sanitize;
  • Whether or not you are using separate boards make sure to clean and sanitize between uses
  • When washing by hand, do not use steel or wire, both can damage a board’s finish.
  • After cleaning, flood board with sanitizing solution (1 tablespoon unscented bleach per gallon of water) let stand for 5-10 minutes, rinse with fresh water.
  • Let cutting boards dry completely, do not stack them together.

Oh, and one more thing if you want to extend the life of your cutting board you can use bleach and fine sand paper.


Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing Attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at rt@lettergradeconsulting.com

Rada Tarnovsky
Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at rt@lettergradeconsulting.com