Which chopping board is worse for spreading germs?


We always endeavor to bring you the latest information and we would like to update advice given in our chopping board story. Do not put wooden boards in the microwave to clean.

The test
Whether you are slicing, dicing or carving, a good chopping board is an essential piece of kitchen equipment. But have you ever wondered which kind of chopping board is best to use? Plastic, marble and wood are all popular surfaces.

Our reporter Leila McKinnon finds out if they're as clean as they look and if they harbour any hidden germs?

It's not about being houseproud — it can literally be a matter of life and death. Bacteria like salmonella and E.coli breed on your board — these can cause serious food poisoning and even be fatal.

But does what your board's made out of make a difference?

Back in the '90s, Europe's environmental health investigators decided wood was unhygienic and plastic much cleaner. It became the rule in restaurants and canteens for wood to be given the chop. Instead everyone was picking up the plastic and chef Aaron Ogden says that's still the way it works at the city college in San Francisco where he trains the next generation of chefs.

"The wooden cutting boards … they get broken and cracked so we've gone to a plastic cutting board, it holds up much better for students. They can clean them very well and they don't harbour lot of bacteria," he says.

Well, that's Aaron's theory. But is he right? And where does marble come into the picture?

Leila visits microbiologist Dean Cliver at the University of California. He's studied how bacteria behave on different surfaces.

Professor Cliver and his assistant Edward are going to help us out with a little experiment using marble, wood and plastic chopping boards.

"What we are going to do is put on some harmless E. coli let it dry in place and try and wash it off with common dish detergent and then afterwards see how much stayed behind. So we'll put the same amount on each board, in the middle, and then we'll give it a little time to soak in and dry off before we try to remove it," says Professor Cliver.

After 15 minutes the boards are handwashed in hot water and detergent. Next, samples are taken from the middle of the boards, where the bacteria were applied.

Edward also takes samples from the edge of each board.

Now, we need to give them time to multiply.

Leila: "Okay in the incubator with those?"
Professor: "Yes, at 37 degrees, and tomorrow afternoon, hopefully we'll know what the answer is."

Will that answer show wood's wonderful, marble's marvellous or that plastic really is fantastic?

We'll find out when the bugs have had time to breed.

The boards have been contaminated with E. coli — genetically modified to become fluorescent under UV light.

We're looking at the amount of white stuff that's grown on top of our gels.

Marble board: few signs of bacteria.

Professor Cliver: "That was from the inoculated area and there are relatively few colonies."

Wood board: thin layer of bacteria.

Professor Cliver: "This is from the wood board and here we have colonies, more or less wall-to-wall, but in a thin layer."

Plastic board: more bacteria than the others.

Professor Cliver: "The plastic has a heavier growth than the wood and much more than on the marble board, so this one is the least clean after having been washed.

So plastic's out. We're down to two.

When just the middle of the board is sampled, marble wins. But for samples from the outer parts of the boards, it was a completely different story.

"The one that has too many colonies to count is from the marble board," Professor Cliver.

On the smooth marble, bacteria had spread everywhere, contaminating the entire surface.

Whereas, for the wood the bacteria grew only where they were applied — they didn't spread, leaving a much cleaner surface overall.

ConclusionSo on our chopping board scorecard, plastic comes a definite last and that's because bacteria are able to breed in the cuts left by knives.

Marble came in second because bacteria spread everywhere. Marble also loses points because it's tough on knives.

In the final wash-up, it was wood that blew the competition out of the water. This is no surprise to Professor Cliver. In many similar experiments, wood's always been a winner.

Leila: "Why is wood so much better?"
Professor Cliver: "It's a very porous material and the fluid is drawn into the wood by capillary action and if there are bacteria in the fluid they go in and they never come back alive."
Leila: "So the wooden boards kill the bacteria?"
Professor: "Well, they die off slowly. It may take a few hours, but all the same, they aren't in a position to cause any trouble."
Leila: "So wood's the way to go?"
Professor: "In my opinion."

But the professor adds a rider — be sure to choose a tight-grained hardwood board. If the wood's too soft, those pesky bacteria can multiply in deep knife cuts.

So it's official — wooden chopping boards are back in from the cold. They're knife friendly, they kill bacteria and if looked after properly, they can last for years.

Fast facts
Whatever board you choose to use, do you know the best way to keep it germ-free? For plastic, spray it with a mist of vinegar followed by diluted bleach or hydrogen peroxide. To care for your wooden board, don't' soak it for hours, a quick scrub will do.
The inaugural edition of The Miele Guide, Asia’s first truly independent and authoritative restaurant guide will launch on 31 October 2008 at a star-studded dinner held in Singapore. The 2008/2009 edition of this new annual guide will then be available at major bookstores throughout Asia on 1 November 2008.

Written by expert food lovers who know and love Asia, this 2008/2009 edition will be the first restaurant guide to measure the best restaurants in the region by Asian standards. At the same time, as it sets new benchmarks in the Asian culinary sphere, the very best restaurants in Asia will fittingly be given the credence due to them with the launch of the Guide.

Starting with this first edition, The Miele Guide will annually publish a list of Asia’s 20 best restaurants. These restaurants will be numerically ranked and profiled in-depth. In addition, the Guide will list the other 300 best restaurants from across the region, categorised by country, city and cuisine. This first edition evaluates restaurants in 16 Asian countries—Brunei, Cambodia, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The 2008/2009 edition and this year’s list of Top 20 Restaurants will be unveiled at The Miele Guide Dinner, a chic gala event hosted at the Grand Hyatt Singapore on 31 October 2008. The Dinner will be attended by approximately 350 guests, comprising of a veritable who’s who of Asia’s F&B scene. All chefs and restaurateurs whose establishments have been methodically selected to be in the 2008/2009 edition have been invited.

The slim, elegant and affordable Guide, which will retail at US$15, will be for every traveller, foodie and business person looking to dine in Asia.
I saw this article yesterday in and can't wait to try it out on my next trip to Penang!!!

Organic bakers

Jesse Tan, 29, has got more than just good looks in common with his identical twin brother Jerry: they are both organic bakers.

Working from the rustic little family-run Rainforest Bakery in Chulia Street, the brothers are starting to make a name for themselves by providing decent hand-made organic breads to Penangites which, once tasted, are never forgotten.

“Home-made bread is heavier, and the tastes and textures are completely different,” Jesse instructed us. “We use different methods to bring out certain unique fragrances”.
It all started when father Tan Boo Geok opened up the Rainforest Restaurant, a cafe-style eatery attached to the Olive Spring Hotel which is connected to the bakery. It was one of the first places in town to serve affordable, authentic western food like home-made soups, Lassi, salads and fresh or grilled sandwiches to backpackers.

“Our foreign guests kept commenting on the many different types of breads that they miss from back home,” he explained.

Jesse enrolled on a local baking course, after which he started making his own bread. However, this was not enough and he took off for London where he learnt a lot about organic baking.

“‘Organic’ does not just mean the ingredients used, but also the method of making the breads as well. We don’t use enhancers, preservatives, improvers or conditioners,” he explained.

They stick to tried-and-tested traditional methods which rely purely on good basic raw material: flour, salt, yeast and water. That is why the breads are heavier, with more body and uneven textures, a more satisfying experience altogether.

Over the next three years, he toured Europe, working and spending time in as many different types of bakeries as he could in countries like France, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic €“ all places which are of course famous for their baguettes, ciabattas and brot (bread).

“Whenever I hit a town or city I would try and get into a local bread shop and learn from the head baker,” he added.

A few years ago, he finally returned to the family business in Penang, where he brought Jerry up to date on what he had picked up abroad.

Nowadays the brothers share the title “Chief Baker”, producing fresh bread every morning from the premises in Chulia Street.

They introduce a new type of bread or roll every month, experimenting with different flours and ingredients, and continue to receive feedback and ideas from expatriate friends and guests who visit their establishment from all over the world.

“Jerry and I discuss new ideas between ourselves and give each other feedback,” he said.
The Rainforest Bakery is open from Mondays to Saturdays from 9am to 8pm. If you’re interested, give them a call at 04-261 4641.

Helen Ong is a self-confessed foodie who loves to hunt down the best of Penang. She is the author of the book Great Dining in Penang.

Rainforest Bakery
Chulia Street
One of my favourite things to do during the month of Ramadhan, when my Muslim friends fast from dawn to dusk, is to visit the food bazaars around the suburbs, have a little walk around and then take away the food that I like.

Today, we went over to BB's place to 'buka puasa' (break fast) with her. After watching Broadway Parodies Lagi Lah at KLPAC, we went to the Section 17 Ramadhan Food Bazaar. We got there around 6pm so lots of food was finished by then but we still managed to get a good selection which included murtabak, satay, roti John, various types of keropok lekor, roast chicken, cucur pisang, as well as some desserts - the pink sago thing with coconut, onde-onde, tako and more!

We took this back to her place and soon everyone came over. We had a great time over good food and great conversation. So much better than going to break fast in some hotel which would have cost us like around RM100 per head.

Hmm...wonder which Food Bazaar we should head to next week ....???
Chef Anton Mosimann will be returning to The Olive @ Genting for this year's Michelin star dining. Actually, it looks like they are only bring him back unlike previous years which saw the program stretch out with various Michelin star chefs over a much longer period. And Chef Mosimann is only coming for 4 days.

Having had the opportunity to taste his Mosimann's food last year, it was something that made my tastbuds go "wow!" I decided that's how I will judge my meals these days; it must make me want more of the same dish, it must make me want to return to the same restaurant / outlet to try other dishes and at the end of the dinner, I want to go "Wow!"

I wonder what Mosimann will be cooking this year?

For more information, visit

To learn more about Anton Mosimann go to his website. It contains information not just about his restaurant, but also the Mosimann Academy (you can learn to cook there!), party catering services (You can hire him for a party!) and more ...

Buka puasa (breaking fast) with a twist!

The fish 'buka puasa' by nibbling on you ... then you 'buka' by nibbling .. no, not on them :), but on real food. I wonder if fish is on the menu?
At RM80 nett it's not a bad deal, considering the prices of 'normal' buka puasa dinners around the Klang Valley especially in hotels.