Hey Shawn, happy new year! While you're here, could you comment on the cutting board thing? If ours is plastic, but only used for vegetables, are we okay? Vinegar wipe sounds good?
Hey Eryka, happy new year to you and Dan as well.
The debate on wooden vs. plastic cutting boards will likely be a personal choice at the end of the day. I did some research on the topic after a student brought it up in class one day. The best scientific proof I could find was a study performed at UC Davis, part of it is linked here: UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory: Cutting Board Research
and at the bottom here: Debate Over Wooden or Plastic Cutting Boards Ends Here
I did a armature study myself using a black light that we use in our sanitation classes to show students the bacteria left on their hands after washing them. What I found was consistent with what the UC Davis study determined.
From the link below:
The following discussion won't settle all disputes, but this is what I've learned from research and it is therefore the set of guidelines I put into practice for myself. I rarely get sick.
Wood: Trees don't have the same type of circulatory system as mammals have and therefore cannot rush white blood cells (they don't have those either) to the source of an infection as we can. Wood fibers contain antibacterial compounds that help protect trees from infection. Tests done on wood cutting boards (source below) show that bacteria introduced onto the surface in a laboratory is naturally reduced to safe levels after a while. This is true whether the boards are new and smooth or used and scored with knife grooves. Wood, even dead wood, naturally kills bacteria.
Plastic: Plastic cutting boards are safe when new. Cleaning the surface significantly reduces bacteria to safe levels. However, knife grooves in plastic harbor bacteria, which cannot be removed with normal hand washing. When a knife-scored plastic cutting board is mechanically cleaned (in an electric dishwasher), bacteria is reduced to safe levels.
As for plastic boards, unless they are small enough to fit into an automatic dishwasher, and they are cleaned in the machine after every use, they should be avoided. Research has shown that wood is safer.Product Review - Cutting Boards
One has to be sensible using either. If plastic shows any signs of wear you should replace it, wood should last until it falls apart. Lastly, I prefer using wooden cutting boards with my knives. Another note, I use a few different boards, one for meat & poultry prep, one for cooked food carving, and one for vegetables, all wood. At home (using a dishwasher) and in a commercial kitchen plastic boards make sense.