Tip of the Week: Unpacking Myths About Common Ingredients – Raw Meat

Exactly how many “hard truths” do we believe or have heard to be real about ingredients we use every day. Everyone has heard of the five second rule if food is dropped on the ground, but where did that originate? And, what is the GMP standard for food on the ground?

Our latest Tip of the Week series will cover industry myths we’ve collected. Some are half-truths, myths, or even complete fabrications. This week we’ll explore a common raw meat myth.

Myth: Plastic or glass cutting boards hold fewer bacteria from raw meat compared to wood cutting boards.

True! Wood is a natural product made with numerous minute porous structures. Past studies clearly show that these porous structures can act as a protective shelter for food bacteria and for tiny food particles. This, again, depends on the type of bacteria, concentration, type of wood, topography of the contact surface, pressure, moisture content and duration of the contact. Additionally, wood stays moist for several hours after cleaning. This might provide perfect breeding conditions for bacteria that are normally associated with raw meat and poultry.

On the other hand, in most situations plastic and/or glass cutting boards do not contain porous structures unless not handled properly. Plastic and glass are resistant to microbial degradation and easy to clean and sanitize. However, if plastic and glass cutting boards are used for a very long time, then grooves may harborage bacteria and they become difficult to clean and sanitize. It is important to replace them once grooves appear. 

For this exact reason, a color-coded cleaning program is critical to have in place in food facilities. The program is intended to help prevent cross-contamination between ingredients, allergens, and foreign contaminants. A color-coded cleaning program also streamlines employee use and assists the separation for specific sanitation tasks. Technically there is not a color standard in the US, however a traditional practice has emerged with different colors representing various areas of food production. The key to any color-coded cleaning program is consistency. The colors should always represent the same parts of food production.

  • Red: Used in areas with a higher risk of cross-contamination such as the raw side of a dairy plant

  • White: Used in areas where food is handled and prepared

  • Gray: Used in lower risk areas such as common areas and for general purpose cleaning of surfaces such as glass, mirrors and likely used with waste product

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