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Cutting Board Sanitizer


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#1 paulraphael

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 10:12 AM

There's been a lot of talk about the best way to sanitize cutting boards. Most is about the relative merits of bleach and vinegar.

I've used both and don't like them. Especially because sanitizer has other uses, like soaking side towels and sponges so they don't become biological experiments. I like to keep a sanitizer soaked towel handy for wiping down knives and tools and food surfaces over the coarse of prep.

Bleach smells, corrodes metal (like knives), breaks down sponges and towels, can irritate skin, is unstable when diluted, and is pretty inefective in the presence of organic material. Vinegar smells, attacks carbon steel knives, is relatively expensive, and has no effect at all on viruses (like noroviruses, which are one of the most common foodborne pathogens).

I decided to try a commercial sanitizer that's based on quaternary ammonium compounds. These are the most popular among food service establishments. They're odorless, stable, non-irritating, noncorrosive, won't break down sponges or cloth, and are effective against a wide range of bacteria and viruses. Clean surfaces are considered sanitized after 1 minute of contact. With a standard dilution of 200ppm, there's no need to rinse.

I picked up a gallon jug of the poetically named Nu-Foamicide at a restaurant supply store. It cost about $25. One ounce dilutes to make a gallon of 200ppm working solution. Filling a 16oz spray bottle costs less than 3¢. Way cheaper than a 1:4 solution of vinegar.

You can get this product online for much cheaper than what I paid. It's over 5 times as concentrated, so measuring it out for home use would be trickier. Probably best to make a less concentrated stock solution and dilute from.

#2 John DePaula

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 11:07 AM

Don't forget to pick up a role of Hydrion pH papers to test your concentration level. Too strong is not a good thing either.
John DePaula
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#3 paulraphael

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:10 PM

Don't forget to pick up a role of Hydrion pH papers to test your concentration level.  Too strong is not a good thing either.

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I'd worry about that more in a commercial setting (where test papers are usually required). If it's at home and you're mixing the stuff yourself, it's easy to know the concentration's right.

#4 sygyzy

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 07:27 PM

This is great if you can figure out how to measure out 0.0227 oz for your 16 oz spray bottles.

#5 paulraphael

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 07:37 PM

This is great if you can figure out how to measure out 0.0227 oz for your 16 oz spray bottles.

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Are you talking about sanitizer in file I linked to?

That one's 5 times as concentrated as the brand I got locally. With mine a capful per 16oz is just right.

With a super concentrated brand, the trick would be to do what photographers do with concentrated chemistry. Mix up a less concentrated stock solution. If you filled a gallon jug with a 1:4 solution of that stuff, it would still be concentrated enough to keep indefinitely, but you'd be able to mix the working solution with a capful or teaspoon full per pint of water.

#6 sygyzy

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 03:29 PM

It says 1 oz per 5.5 gallons. 5.5 gallons is 704 oz. 16/704 = 0.0227 oz is the proper dilution rate. Unless my math is wrong (could very well be).

Wouldn't a capful be overkill?

Also, is this entirely safe to eat? I mean could you spray down knives and cutting boards and not rinse them off? I am extremely interested in this but this is all new to me so I appreciate your help.

#7 paulraphael

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 09:40 AM

It says 1 oz per 5.5 gallons. 5.5 gallons is 704 oz. 16/704 = 0.0227 oz is the proper dilution rate. Unless my math is wrong (could very well be).

Wouldn't a capful be overkill?

Also, is this entirely safe to eat? I mean could you spray down knives and cutting boards and not rinse them off? I am extremely interested in this but this is all new to me so I appreciate your help.

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I said to use a capful of the diluted stock solution that you mix up from the concentrated product. If the stock solution is diluted 1:4 with water, then it's a 20% solution. Using a capful of that per pint is the correct strength. Or at least close enough for government work.

The final working solutions are a 200 part per million solution of the ammonium salts. This is considered a no-rinse solution. Spray it on a cutting board and let it dry, or give dishes a final 1 minute soak before air drying.

Quats are often used in stronger solutions for cleaning equipment or for disinfecting, but in that case they must be rinsed off, at least if you're dealing with any surface that contacts food. You basically treat them like chlorine bleach. A 1TB/gallon bleach solution is no-rinse; any stronger you should rinse.

I've been using the quats for a month now. I have a spray bottle for wetting down cutting boards and work surfaces, and a couple of takeout containers filled with the solution: one for sponges by the sink, and one for side towels by my cutting board. The trick is to rinse the sponges and towels well before putting them into the solution. No sanitizer works well when it gets dirty. I've been using the same three sponges for weeks now, and they smell good as new. Mmmmmmm, sponge!

#8 sygyzy

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 05:21 PM

Sorry for not understanding you correctly. I wish they would sell more consumer/home friendly sizes. I need to buy a gallon of the concentrate, then dilute it 1:4 with water and store that into separate containers then when i want to use it, I need to fill a spray bottle of the stuff. If I am just spraying down surfaces instead of filling a sink with this stuff, it'll be 50 years before I use it all.

#9 paulraphael

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 07:56 PM

...it'll be 50 years before I use it all.

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not bad for under 20 bucks!

the stuff I bought is actually more home use friendly ... an ounce makes a gallon, not 5+ gallons. so you use it at the same dilution as bleach. about a capfull per pint. not nearly as good a deal as the superconcentrated stuff, but more than good enough.

if you're curious, just look around next time you're at a restaurant supply store. they're bound to have something.

#10 Edward J

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 09:32 PM

I don't use the stuff on cutting boards. I do bleach them on a monthly basis, but this is only to remove stubborn stains.

So how do I sanitize them?

I use the dishwasher. True, I have a commercial high-temp d/w at work, but even a residential d/w will meet and exceed the recommended sanitizing temps required.

I've been doing this for over 25 years now and have always had the enthusiastic approval of the health inspectors on this matter where ever I've worked --in N. America, Europe, and S.E. Asia.

What the health inspector IS concerned with is the state of the board. They do not like deep scratches or cuts and will tell you to toss out the board when it is scarred. You can do the "silly putty test" yourself on a scarred board. Take a clean, sanitized scarred board and press a bit of silly putty or suitable substance over an area, remove the putty, and examine. Tiny bits of crud are imbedded in the putty courtesy of the deep scars. Maybe sanitizing (any method) will render the crud sterile, but it's still crud, and it will find it's way into food. Now, good commercial nylon cutting boards are not cheap and many of employers would fire me on the spot for tossing out a 18" x 26" 3/4" thick cutting board worth around $80.

So what do I do?

I take them to a buddy who has a thickness planer-- an electrical woodworkers device that removes wood. I run the boards through he planer and it removes around 1/16" from both surfaces, removing all scars and cuts, and giving me two new prisitne surfaces. In other words, a new cutting board--albeit 1/8" thinner. You can do this maybe 3 or 4 times before the board becomes too flexible and really needs to be tossed out.

Sanitizer is good, well actually ideal for s/s surfaces.

I have over 12 feet of solid beech worktable space. This is scraped clean on a as-needed-per-day basis with a simple card scraper--a flexible piece of metal that scrapes off any debris from the surface. (again, another age-old tool borrowed from the woodworker's toolkit) Then I'll sanitize with quats. Once a week I'll treat the table tops with a "salad bowl" paste wax of pure beeswax and mineral oil. Treated like this the tables show no visible signs of wear for two years now. Mind you, any staff that works with me is told in no uncertain terms that my countertops are just that--countertops--not cutting boards, pot rests, or mixing palettes.

#11 paulraphael

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 08:15 AM

Do you put your wood boards in the dishwasher? I wouldn't do that with mine. Residential dishwashers don't usually get hot enough to sanitize effectively. Unless they have a built in water heater and a sanitze feature like commercial models. I've heard of using chemical sanitizers with dishwashers, but don't know how to do it (I don't have a dishwasher).

Commercial dishwashers that sanitize use water that's around 190°F. I've head of these temps warping sanituff boards. Plastic boards hold up fine, but I hate them!

I just scrub my wooden boards in the sink with hot soapy water, and then spray with a light mist of quats at 200ppm. The protein board gets this treatment after every use; the vegetable board much less often. I also keep a side towel soaked in the quat solution by the vegetable board. It's useful for wiping the board down between uses and keeping knives clean. In this application, the sanitizer serves mostly to keep the rag from becoming a germ spreading medium.

#12 Edward J

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 10:31 PM

Nope. No wooden boards....

Don't get me wrong, I love wood, and spend a large amount of time woodworking.

IMHO the only reason cutting boards were made of wood was because there was no other material available at the time.

Wood is a natural material and will swell with humidty and water, and shrink with dry air or harsh heat. I've worked with 100 yr old oak timbers reclaimed from an old building, and the wood still shrinks and swells with humidty and seasonal changes. While cutting baords sanitize well in a d/w, the high heat and humidty will kill the board in a very short time, commonly splitting or failing at the glue lines.

Cutting boards are a common source of cross contamination and flavour contamination as well, and for this reason it is imperative (in the commercial kitchen anyway) that they be sanitized in a "foolproof" manner.

Easier said than done. Show me a foolproof method and I'll show you a better fool. Sanitizer may or may not be mixed properly, (also note, sanitizer concentrate has expiry dates too) may or may not be applied for the proper length of time, may or not be wiped off with a clean paper towel or maybe a filthy rag, and may or may not still have a sanitizer residue that leaves an additional "flavour" to what ever contacts it. True, a good Chef is in control of his kitchen and this includes proper sanitizing, but a Chef is not superman, and can not be everywhere everytime. On the other hand, either a nylon board gets tossed in the d/w or it doesn't--a lot easier to control.

The choice for me, anyways, is very obvious and for this reason only, I do not have any wooden cutting boards.

#13 paulraphael

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 12:19 AM

ahhh, so you're talking about running plastic boards through the planer?

that's really interesting. conventional wisdom is that any kind of resurfacing will just melt them. that's great info to pass around ... most people just throw the things out when the surface gets dinged up.

#14 qrn

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 08:38 PM

My boards are Ultra high molecular weight Polyethelene from a Butcher supply house. While I could run them thru my planer , I find that I can clean em up to a fairly smooth surface, and get rid of knife grooves, with 60 grit paper on a 6" Porter Cable orbital sander.
Most All the boards are cut to a size to fit either horizontally or vertically in the Dishwasher.Several are larger so they have to go horizontally.I have about 8 boards, so I only have to do the sanding thing every year or so...
Bud

#15 Edward J

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 10:41 PM

Yeah, a thickness planer from a woodworker's shop. Most accept 12" wide material. I've done this many times, and always with excellent results. I've also cut large nylon boards into smaller ones with a table saw and a Skil-saw, all with no problems of melting or gumming up.

In one of the older Matfer catalouges 2002 or 2003 I think, I saw a device sold and made by Matfer for the sole purpose of scraping/smoothing nylon boards. This device bore a very strong resemblance (straight rip-off?) to a woodworker's No.5 smoothing hand plane, albeit without a chip breaker and cap iron, and being a Matfer exclusive, was pretty pricey too. A caveat here, unless you have some experience with hand tools, particularily hand planes, it is very easy to gouge the board, leave hollows or hills. A thickness planer will give you a perfectly flat surface.

I've also heard tell of Sushi guys "ironing" their nylon cutting boards. That is, they run a regular clothes iron over the board melting and smoothing the surface. Never tried it .

#16 piazzola

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 12:52 AM

I have been on this earth for nearly sixty years and never been sick for eating contaminated food even when I wasn't member of this board or even before internet days let alone going to extremes. I am not particularly fuzz by bacteria or viruses. I have always washed and scrubbed my boards with mild neutral soap and some hot water whenever available. I use wood boards most of the time.

#17 paulraphael

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 10:31 AM

I have been on this earth for nearly sixty years and never been sick for eating contaminated food even when I wasn't member of this board or even before internet days let alone going to extremes. I am not particularly fuzz by bacteria or viruses. I have always washed and scrubbed my boards with mild neutral soap and some hot water whenever available. I use wood boards most of the time.

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Scrubbing with soap and hot water is probably all you need to do in most cases. If you're cooking for other people it's a more serious endeavor. You may not know if someone's immune compromised or not. Scrubbing removes most pathogens but not all.

Sanitizing cutting boards is a very small part of the picture when it comes to working clean. I actually think sanitzing sponges and side towels is more important, but the same discussion of chemicals applies.

All that being said, when you say you have never been sick from eating contaminated food, how do you know? Have you never been sick? And if you have been sick, how did you reach your conclusion about the source of the illness?

#18 budrichard

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 12:40 PM

I've had John Boss 4" thick countertops for over 10 years. We cut everything but raw fish and meat on them, clean with soap and water, no problem. I do use large poly boards for raw fish and meat, clean with soap and water and bleach occasionally, no problems. I would be seriously concerned with these high chemical concentration products in a non-commercial environment. Unless you have have had or are having food borne illness problems, it seems to me, that the most benign way to assure yourself of sanitary conditions is the best.-Dick

#19 paulraphael

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 02:19 PM

I've had John Boss 4" thick countertops for over 10 yearUnless you have have had or are having food borne illness problems, it seems to me, that the most benign way to assure yourself of sanitary conditions is the best.-Dick

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A quick wipe with soapy water is probably good enough most of the time, but it doesn't assure anything. The whole point of sanitizers is to provide assurance.

I'll also risk belaboring the point that when you say "I've never had a problem," you're saddling yourself with a an almost impossible burden of proof. There are literally dozens of types of foodborne illnesses, with wide ranging symptoms, and onset times that range from minutes to several weeks.

When I'm just cooking for myself, I'm pretty lax. But when I'm cooking for other people, I feel it's my responsibility to take more precautions. And if I'm going to be cooking for strangers, who's health condition I may know little about, the responsibility is even higher.

The health risks of mishandled food wildly outweigh the risks of keeping a jug of chemicals under the sink ... where many people already keep bleach, ammonia, and even bug spray.

This chart should give you an idea of the range of pathogens and toxins that are out there, and how far beyond the usual "food poisoning" symptoms the effects can be. As an example, if you or anyone in your family has ever gotten 24 hour stomach flu, that's caused by noroviruses, which are usually transmitted through food. And they're not killed by vinegar, which has become a popular kitchen sanitizer.

Edited by paulraphael, 17 November 2008 - 02:21 PM.


#20 budrichard

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 03:24 PM

I cannot remember a food borne illness from the methodolodgy I use to sanitise our countertops ,cutting boards and cooking instruments. I'm simply pointing out that the simplest and most benign methods are the best and maybe actually healthier than strong chemicals used constantly.
One certainly can use these methods but one may be risking long term chemical exposure with no evidance that it is needed.
BTW, I never use vinegar. -Dick

#21 nickrey

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 05:15 PM

I haven't seen it above but it was my understanding that wetting a wooden board and microwaving it for around 10 minutes sanitizes both the surface and just below the porous surface where microbes can accumulate.

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#22 andiesenji

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 06:06 PM

I realize it may be too expensive for many but I have opted for a steam sanitizer.
It works for me because I have extensive butcherblock counters and some very large cutting boards.
In the past I have used a dilute bleach solution, also white vinegar, also diluted, as well as a commercial butcher shop sanitizer which I had to use with care because I found I was allergic to something in it and would develop dermatitis after use, even with gloves - my arms would break out and I did not want to buy the full length rubber gloves.
The price for steamers is coming down rapidly and I am sure that within a short time a reasonably price consumer unit suitable for cleaning counters, etc., will be available.
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#23 paulraphael

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 10:31 PM

I cannot remember a food borne illness from the methodolodgy I use to sanitise


But how do you know what illnesses are from food and what aren't? And what about illnesses of your guests that appear 12 hours, 48 hours, a week after their meal? It's a big assumption to make.

At any rate, the real benefit for me is non-stinky, non-contaminated sponges and towels. Sanitized cutting boards are a fringe benefit.

As far as safety, the chemicals in question have been used for ages in restaurants. They also exist in much stronger concentrations in many household disinfecting cleaners, especially ones made for use on food surfaces. I suppose there's a chance we'll learn they're harmful someday, but we already know that they're less harmful than lysteria!

#24 budrichard

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 08:10 AM

I found this reference helpful http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FS077 .
I was trained to act on objective evidence and in any safety endeaver there is always a risk benefit associated. Since my objective evidence does not indicate members of our household or guests having food borne illiness, I have to make the conclusion, that our methods work. If we were suffering frequent illness that could be food borne, then I would assess our methodology and change but for 30 plus years no problems.
Frankly I am more concerned about chemical treatment of our environment and assess that i don't require it.-Dick

#25 paulraphael

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 10:15 AM

You could be right. Though I think it's worth noticing that health departments across the country seem to have unanimously come to the opposite conclusion.

#26 budrichard

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 02:18 PM

Commercial and household sanitation are two different things.
In a commerical environment one is faced with a large number of individuals that could be affected by unsanitary processess and a higher degree of assurance is required because of the varying skills and acumen of the commercial workers. Household sanitation will only affect a small number of individuals and if the household providers are scrupuliously clean, then the degree of assuredeness is less. EOT-Dick

#27 paulraphael

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 03:19 PM

If you're worried about the dangers of using sanitizing chemicals around food (vs. the dangers of pathogens), why does it matter if you're cooking for 5 or for 500?

Edited by paulraphael, 19 November 2008 - 03:20 PM.


#28 JeanneCake

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 08:21 PM

If you're worried about the dangers of using sanitizing chemicals around food (vs. the dangers of pathogens), why does it matter if you're cooking for 5 or for 500?

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hopefully because his family would not sue him if they became ill after eating food prepared in his kitchen! :wink:

I agree that this all comes down to protecting yourself if challenged legally as a result of a claim or in the face of complaints made to your local Board of Health. You need to follow certain rules in order to assure others that you are following accepted modes of practice in food preparation for the public. What you do at home (different rules!) is not allowed in public :laugh:

#29 paulraphael

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 09:16 PM

You need to follow certain rules in order to assure others that you are following accepted modes of practice in food preparation for the public.  What you do at home (different rules!) is not allowed in public  :laugh:

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Well, there aren't different rules at home; there are no rules. It's not a regulated environment. Short of murder, or manufacturing crack, you do just about anything you want in your kitchen!

I find the results of this difference educational. There are estimates that between 60% and 90% of all cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. come from food cooked at home. Unfortunately it's a vague set of figures, because most cases aren't reported (most may not even be identified as foodborne). But at any rate, it challenges the common assumption that food poisoning is confined to filthy restaurants.

Given all this, I'm happy to learn from what they do in the commercial environment. And as I said before, I'm thrilled that my rags and sponges don't stink anymore.

#30 tme4tls

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Posted 23 November 2008 - 02:58 PM

I believe, IMHO, the important thing is that some form of sanitation is used as opposed to nothing at all. Each form has its good points and bad points, each has the best place and the worst place for use.

To use nothing is criminal and shows no respect for your friends or family who dine on what has been prepared on the cutting surface. That is a person I would avoid at all costs.

Is wood better or is plastic? That answer is up to the individual and can be argued and discussed to the point of nausea. I believe that wooden boards are best, but I make wooden boards so my opinion is skewed. Using plastic or wood is better than glass or stone and some sanitizing is better than none.

David
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Edited by tme4tls, 23 November 2008 - 02:58 PM.