GET RID OF YOUR WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS
Nonporous surfaces like plastic or glass are easier to clean than wood and thus better in terms of food safety. Wood is naturally porous, and those tiny fissures and grooves in wooden cutting boards can harbor bacteria which is why cutting boards made of wood aren't allowed in commercial kitchens.
Bottom line: Use plastic or acrylic cutting boards, not wood or glass.
AVOID CROSS CONTAMINATION
Consider using separate cutting boards for fresh produce and bread, raw meats, poultry and seafoods, dairy products, and cooked foods. This will prevent bacteria on a cutting board that is used for raw meat from contaminating a food that requires no further cooking. You can even purchase color-coded cutting boards help you keep them separate (At our house we don’t eat beef or pork and I have a special red cutting board I ONLY use for poultry).
CLEANING CUTTING BOARDS
Cutting boards should be washed with hot, soapy water after each use, rinsed with clear water and air dried. You can also pat them dry with clean paper towels — but don't dry with a dishtowel. Why? Dishtowels hang around the kitchen and get wiped on everything, making them the ideal vehicle for spreading bacteria from one kitchen tool or surface (or even your hands) to another.
Acrylic or plastic boards should be run through a dishwasher, which is a great way to clean and sanitize them. It's another reason they're superior to wooden boards, because wooden boards may warp, crack or split if washed in the dishwasher.
SANITIZING CUTTING BOARDS
Don't have a dishwasher? You can sanitize plastic cutting boards in a chlorine solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. (Use unscented bleach only — don't use bleach that has lemon or pine scent added!)
Ideally you'd fill a sink with this solution and then soak the cutting boards in it for half an hour or so, then rinse them with clear water and air dry. If your sink isn't big enough, you can fill a spray bottle with the sanitizing bleach solution and spritz the surface of the boards generously and let them stand for a few minutes, then rinse and dry as described.
REPLACE WORN CUTTING BOARDS
Cutting boards wear out over time: they may develop hard-to-clean grooves from your knife, or they may just get dinged up from heavy use. Cutting boards are nothing to get sentimental over. When they wear out, toss them out and replace them.
KEEP YOUR SPONGE CLEAN
Kitchen sponges are the No. 1 source of germs in the whole house. Why? The moist, micro-crevices that make a sponge such an effective cleaning device also make it a cozy home for germs and more difficult to disinfect. Wiping your counters or dishes with a dirty sponge will only transfer the bacteria from one item to another. "Wet your sponge and then pop it in the microwave for two minutes to eliminate the germs that lurk inside the crevices," says Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai in New York City, and the author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu.
Practice good dishrag etiquette. Your dish rags are really no better than your sponges. And like sponges, using a dirty dish rag to clean a kitchen countertop will only spread germs. Your best bet is to replace rags daily. "Allow them to dry out between uses because most bacteria thrive only in moistness," Schachter says. In fact, they can only survive a few hours on dry surfaces. "Rags should be washed in the washing machine and then dried on high heat," he says.
SO THE HEALTHY CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS:
1. Inspect and if needed replace your cutting boards.
2. Sanitize your cutting boards and begin a daily habit of cleaning them properly between uses
3. Begin to use good kitchen habits replacing your sponge or rag each morning and zapping it in the microwave or laying it out to dry between uses.