Oak: Antimicrobial Properties

Oka

Casey
Corporate Member
Postulating that the grain structure and the high tannins in oak create the bacteria resistant environment. Very interesting

My family used to play a game .... shortest definition wins. In that spirit

Biology .... def - If it gets infected it's Biology ! :D
 

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
@drw didn't Boardsmith have some research he shared on wood cutting boards over the HDPE ones, I wonder if this is even more evidence? Logic says that food particles would get into the open grain of any wood, but the science shows that as a fallacy.

I REALLY love this;
"Although wood unfairly is perceived as an unhygienic material "our research showed that the four most common bacteria responsible for healthcare-associated infections survive least on this material compared to other inanimate surfaces."
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
I did this same research in 1978 when I made white oak cutting boards to sell in the local hardware store. The manager said wood breeds bacteria but if I could prove him wrong he would buy twenty boards.

I spent several hours at the University of Alabama library looking up research papers on the subject and found what I needed. Have been making white oak cutting boards ever since.
 

Jeff

New User
Jeff
The antimicrobial properties of wood, in general, isn't new. There has been a lot of testing done with the 3 most common bacteria that may be a problem on cutting boards and butcher blocks.



Oak and pine are two of the better ones, but who makes cutting boards from pine?

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Attachments

JimD

Jim
Senior User
Interesting. Maybe I'll make some oak cutting boards for Christmas presents. I have quite a few smallish scraps taking up space.

I don't know how practical unfinished oak surfaces in a hospital are, however. It seems like they would be difficult to keep clean and a dirty appearance would be a turn off, even if the surface was not unsafe.
 

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
I did this same research in 1978 when I made white oak cutting boards to sell in the local hardware store. The manager said wood breeds bacteria but if I could prove him wrong he would buy twenty boards.

I spent several hours at the University of Alabama library looking up research papers on the subject and found what I needed. Have been making white oak cutting boards ever since.
So, you didn't finish, did he buy the 20 boards?
 

drw

Donn
Corporate Member
I won't get into the weeds with this topic, but it has been a matter of debate for many, many years. While it has been a very long time since I visited this subject, the public health codes in most states have prohibited the use of wood as food contact surfaces in foodservice establishments. This prohibition was based largely on the belief that wood surfaces are more difficult to clean/sanitize than the surfaces mades from other materials. Given the porosity of wood vs. other materials, this seemed to make sense...however, closer evaluation of surfaces made from materials that are approved for food contact revealed that they had many surfaces irregularities that could also easily harbor microorganisms and unless properly cleaned and sanitized lead to the formation of biofilms.

Over the years I recall reading a number of papers on antimicrobial factors associated with various woods; some papers corroborated previous work, others reached different conclusions. This isn't surprising, there are so many subtleties associated with experimental protocols that can impact outcomes and make direct comparisons challenging, if not impossible. As an examples some work was performed by introducing bacterial cultures directly on the surfaces of various species of wood, while others made extracts from sawdust or introduced sawdust into culture tubes. (I said I didn't want to get into the weeds, but it appears that I am knee deep...sorry!).

To wrap this up, clearly some woods do have antimicrobial properties, but I am not sure that we should be using cutting boards made from wood solely because of this. Whatever materials we use good hygienic practices are a must! These practices are to clean AND sanitize food contact surfaces...please note, this is a two step process: clean and sanitize...you cannot adequately sanitize a dirty surface. (As a quick aside, years ago a food processor called me and ask if I would help him. He company made coleslaw and other prepared salads. His problem was that his product wasn't getting anywhere close to the shelf-life that was expected. Early one morning, prior to start-up, I did a walk around his facility...the place reeked of chlorine (it was obvious they were using sanitizer!). I swabbed the surfaces of various pieces of equipment. Two day latter I went back and told him the chopper was his problem...it turned out that the chopper was difficult to break down and clean, so the new cleaning crew was giving it a heavy shot of sanitizer solution but they did not routinely break it down and clean it before sanitizing. Once this problem was resolved, the shelf-life of the product dramatically improved.)
 

Steve Martin

Steve Martin
Senior User
In a former life I was a microbiologist, consequently the following article was of interest to me. Since many of us build projects out of oak, I thought the article may be of passing interest to you as well.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a global threat—oak surfaces might thwart their growth
As a former local public health sanitarian {restaurant inspector) I seem to remember a study by NC State, to investigate whether plastics or wood were "better" materials for cutting boards/butcher blocks used to cut raw meat in a commercial kitchen. I don't remember the relevant references but I'm pretty sure that wooden butcher blocks were less likely to transmit harmful bacteria than the plastic blocks that were tested. This would have been late '70s to early '80s. I seem to remember that both oak butcher blocks and maple cutting boards out performed the plastic, even when the plastic was regularly put through a commercial dishwasher with high water temperatures and the wooden boards were simply washed with clean, hot soapy water and rinsed with hot water.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
As a former local public health sanitarian {restaurant inspector) I seem to remember a study by NC State, to investigate whether plastics or wood were "better" materials for cutting boards/butcher blocks used to cut raw meat in a commercial kitchen. I don't remember the relevant references but I'm pretty sure that wooden butcher blocks were less likely to transmit harmful bacteria than the plastic blocks that were tested. This would have been late '70s to early '80s. I seem to remember that both oak butcher blocks and maple cutting boards out performed the plastic, even when the plastic was regularly put through a commercial dishwasher with high water temperatures and the wooden boards were simply washed with clean, hot soapy water and rinsed with hot water.
That may be the study I found in 78.
 

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