Serving food on a wooden board might be trendy, and taking a picture of your beautifully plated meal might spice up your Instagram feed, but some people have been questioning its safety.
Ibrahim’s Grill and Steak House in Birmingham, England, was fined £50,000 earlier this month for serving food on unhygienic wooden boards, which allegedly left a party of 14 with food poisoning. In addition to other health code violations, the wooden boards the restaurant served their food on “could not be properly cleaned,” according to The Independent. The Birmingham City Council even posted a tweet about the dangers of eating from wooden boards — but is there any merit to this claim?
Wooden plates could pose a risk of food poisoning to anyone eating from them. pic.twitter.com/3FygUMBvgD— Bham City Council (@BhamCityCouncil) January 5, 2018
According to the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom, there is no strong evidence that says wooden chopping boards are less hygienic than other types of serveware if they are properly cleaned.
Gary Kennedy, a food and safety auditor in Sydney, Australia, told abc.net.au that many wooden serving boards are oiled and water resistant, but if someone repeatedly cuts at the wood with a knife the coating can become damaged. This is where problems with bacteria can occur, though very rarely. A study from the University of California stated, “…disease bacteria were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected.”
So the problems with the steakhouse in England were because of how the wooden boards were cleaned, not with the board itself. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends washing wooden serving platters with hot, soapy water or bleach.
As long as they are properly cleaned and sanitized, there is no health risk when it comes to eating food off a wooden board. It’s just like any other plate, but with a ~rustic aesthetic~ everyone can get down with.