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Importance of separate cutting board for fish/meat?

I accidentally used the cutting board we use for fish to cut a vanilla bean pod that I then placed in with a mixture that is to freeze into ice cream that I'll be serving guests. The vanilla bean pod did not get cooked and the mixture it's in won't be cooked, just frozen. Is this safe?

I know you're supposed to have different boards for safety reasons. I'm pretty new to eating fish and don't eat meat so I'm not used to separate boards and am not sure how big a deal it might be or might not be. Thanks.

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  1. I don't have a separate cutting board for meat, but I do wash it thoroughly with hot water and soap after cutting meat, poultry or seafood.

    If the board was well washed I wouldn't worry. If it hadn't been washed, I would throw out the ice cream mixture.

    1. Did you wash the cutting board between uses?

      2 Replies
      1. I use a wood cutting board for everything. Just wash and dry. Never had an issue with cross contamination of germs, odors or flavors

        8 Replies
        1. re: scubadoo97

          Me too for a number of years. I do like to have separate boards, but I often don't follow my own rules. Wash the boards with a good detergent between uses. Use a brush to scrub a bit . Rinse and dry. I honestly don't think doing this hurts unless you are cooking for someone with a compromised immune system.

          I don't know who made that rule up, but I do know that they've run tests on wooden boards and found they don't harbor bacteria as previously feared. (I don't know the study. I read this several years ago.)

          I would run the scrubbing brush through the dishwasher frequently though.

          1. re: sueatmo

            'I don't know who made that rule up..."

            Cutting board manufacturers. A thorough wash is enough, especially if your dishwasher has a sanitize function.

            1. re: pine time

              I don't think I'd put a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher. Plastic yes,.

              1. re: sueatmo

                Guess I thought that was a given, but ya never know!

                1. re: sueatmo

                  I have put wooden cutting boards in the diswasher for quite a while. One lasted, oh, about 5-10 years before cracking and breaking down a wood-grain seam, but other than that I've never had a problem with it.

                  1. re: Midknight

                    If I am not there to stop him, my dear Mr. CB sneaks the wooden boards into the dish washer. In 20 years, only one seperated along a seam.

                    My father, who enjoyed wood working in his spare time, had a variety of slabs (solid pieces) he finished into cutting boards and he always put them in the dishwasher. I am still kicking myself that I didn't take them when we split up his house.

                    All that being said, if I were to buy a "pretty" cutting board like I see at some of the nicer fairs, I wouldn't want that to go into the dish washer.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      As a general principal, I don't put any sort of wood in the dishwasher. I am frankly surprised that anyone would. But it sounds like it can be done. I wonder if my cheap bamboo boards would withstand the dishwasher cycle.

                      1. re: sueatmo

                        Bamboo is a quite robust and solid material, being used even as flooring.

                        The dishwashing is not so hard on materials as is the sustained high heat in the drying cycle. I used to wash our plastic pitchers and other kitchen items on the wash cycle only, pulling them out just before the dry cycle began.

                        Until my wife caught me.

          2. If the cutting board was cleaned after you last cut fish, then you are fine.

            I don't have separate boards for fish/meat/veggies either. I have a large one for large jobs and a smaller one for small jobs. Never had a problem.

            1. I'm with the others that don't use separate cutting boards and think your ice cream will be perfectly safe. That being said, when I skin or otherwise trim fish I do so on the butcher paper that it as wrapped in and not directly on the board. Also, fish is meat.

              1 Reply
              1. re: gourmanda

                Yes fish is meat but to distinguish not eating land animals vs. animals living in the water it's much easier to call fish "fish" and animals who live on land "meat." I figure most people get it. To be more accurate I could have said I do not eat meat other than fish.

              2. Yeah you left out an important part of this story and that is if you washed it between the fish and vanilla bean. If washed between I don't see an issue. A good wooden cutting board is all you need for all your meats or veggies. Just make sure you are aware of how to clean it. You can check out http://www.endgraincuttingboard.org/e... for tips on how to keep your board sanitary.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JoWeb

                  Great tips, thank you. We do have a wood board too and I will absolutely use these cleaning tips.

                2. Did you previously cut fish on the board and not wash it, or is it just your fish board. If it is the later, don't sweat it.

                  If it is the former, I would worry more about the fish taste being transferred to the ice cream than any food-borne bacteria.

                  1. Fish flavored ice cream - cutting edge!
                    What kind of fish?

                    1 Reply
                    1. Thanks everyone, you've eased my mind. The board isn't wood, it's some sort of plastic-y material and I've never cleaned it with bleach but it does get washed between uses.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: bythebay

                        The plastic board itself is the least sanitary of all cutting boards! Even though you can put it in the dishwasher some of the bacteria can still get caught in the knife groves. Get yourself a proper end grain cutting board!

                        1. re: JoWeb

                          I do have a wood one but only one right now. Eventually may replace all the plastic ones.

                        2. re: bythebay

                          A plastic cutting board should be washed using the "sani-rinse" (or equivalent) cycle, especially after being used with raw poultry. Soaking in bleach periodically is also a good procedure.

                          Wood boards are good, but you don't need end grain except for a chopping block. A wood board should be washed with white vinegar, then hydrogen peroxide solution.

                          1. re: GH1618

                            We don't have a dishwasher so it's all hand wash. No poultry on it though, only meat on it was fish. Do you use vinegar and peroxide for every washing of the wood board? I've just been using regular detergent since we got it.

                            1. re: bythebay

                              No, I merely wipe it off with a damp sponge or towel, but I never cut raw meat (especially chicken) on my wood board. I wash the wood board with vinegar only occasionally, and with peroxide less often — only when I think there may have been exposure to raw meat. I am careful about this because I have a weakened immune system.

                              1. re: GH1618

                                Thanks. It's good to know what precautions to take.

                        3. Mere washing does not sterilize a cutting board, particularly a plastic board with grooves cut into it from use, which will trap bacteria. Some say that bacteria will not live on a wood board, but that would not apply to immediate reuse.

                          That most people, most of the time, do not get food poisoning from cutting boards is not a reason to be lax about avoiding cross-contamination. A few pathogens can cause severe, even life-threatening illnesses. Chicken, in particular, requires careful handling to eliminate harmful bacteria and to avoid cross-contamination.

                          Procedures for safe handling are not just "made up." They come from the USDA Food Safety Information Service, and they are designed to eliminate the possibility of food poisoning. If you disregard them, chances are that you will not suffer ill effects, but in those rare cases when you do get food poisoning, you will regret it.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: GH1618

                            I wash my boards after use, and if I have to reuse one immediately, I turn it over. I do think it is best to use a meat board and a veggie board, but I didn't do this for a long time, and we never had illness from doing this.

                            I'm sorry to say I really don't trust the USDA very much. This is the agency that allows pink slime into the food supply, without telling the consumer.

                            1. re: sueatmo

                              The main problem with the LFTB ("pink slime") was that the production of it seems to have violated the FSIS standards for temperature, which may have been responsible for some cases of illness and even death before the sterilization step was introduced. I can see why some might distrust the FSIS, being part of the USDA, but if you don't accept FSIS standards, then you don't have any standards at all, do you?

                              1. re: GH1618

                                You have a point about standards, and I concede that. But, I can't tell you how many "rules" I've read and attempted to follow, which prove to be incorrect years later. Just recently I read that the pressure of the water, not detergent or soap, knocks off bacteria when you hand wash.

                                I think washing with lots of water and plenty of dish detergent should surely be an adequate clean of cutting boards. I will note your point about poultry for future, however.

                                1. re: sueatmo

                                  The soap reduces the surface tension, and makes it easier for the water to "knock off" the crud.

                                  1. re: wyogal

                                    Except that we mostly use detergent, no?

                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                      same thing with detergent. I reduces surface tension so that the water can do the work.

                                      1. re: wyogal

                                        You are probably correct. If I remember from H.S. science, the lye in soap uses a chemical reaction to cleanse. I think the action is different but probably the results are the same?

                          2. I'm a firm believer in the powers of soap and hot water. If I'm cutting up meats and veggies for a stew I'll use the same board - they're all going in the same pan anyway. After taking apart chickens I wash my main wooden board (won't use anything else - plastic tends to slip on my counters) with soap and the hottest water I can. My smaller board is used mainly for cheese because of its size.

                            1. I have been cooking long before anyone ever recommended the "separate boards" rule.

                              I've never poisoned anybody in > 50 years. I wash the wood ones by hand, the plastic ones in the dishwasher.

                              No bleach, no peroxide, occasionally I use either salt or baking soda as an abrasive. Works for me!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: nami54

                                I'm with you.
                                Just keep things clean and dry.Scrub both well-The dishwasher does not do it all with deep cuts.

                                The rule started with commerical processors, and then was adopted by restaurant kitchens. Strict health rules and regulations make sense there obviously, but not necessarily in the home kitchen. Most home kitchens don't prepare a turkey, followed by salmon, followed by ham, etc.for 10 hours straight, 6 days per week.

                                Same exposure but less constant prep volume.

                                1. re: nami54

                                  And salt would also kill bateria as well, the salt explodes the cell walls (or something like that)

                                  I don't have seperate boards either. I am also a fan of those cheapy flexible mats. If I am cutting up a chicken, I put one of those down on top of my wooden cutting board. Raw chicken grosses me out anyway and I am probably over the top when it comes to clean up.

                                2. Great advice given here, as usual. I'll just add my two cents. I prefer a wood cutting board, as many cooks do, but in the past several years of hearing the cross-contamination warnings, I picked up a good tip that I'd like to share. This would work just as well with your current cutting board.

                                  I bought a very inexpensive package of flexible plastic cutting boards (might be $10 at Bed Bath & Beyond) and pull one out and put it on top of my cutting board when I am going to work with raw protein, and then I can put it aside and continue with my prep on my main cutting board. They are very flexible and might be a good tool for you.
                                  Best of luck!

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: Terrie H.

                                    Thanks Terrie;

                                    Any particular brand name on the mats ?

                                    1. re: Terrie H.

                                      Oh I've seen those for sale on Amazon, that's a really good idea.

                                      1. re: bythebay

                                        yikes, guys... this is actually a huge no-no! the raw meat/poultry juices can easily leak off of the edge of a cutting sheet and contaminate the board below it. then if the cook simply removes the flimsy cutting sheet (which are easy to pierce w a sharp knife btw) and continues to prep raw veggies or salad ingredients on a board they mistakenly assume is "clean"..... that is when a very dangerous situation can occur.

                                        the double decker cutting board method and the cutting board "flip" are commonly used but are a sign that folks don't really understand cross-contamination. they would be write-up/get shitcanned offenses in a commercial kitchen. in a home kitchen, it's all too easy to say "magic house" or "nobody's ever gotten sick" (that you know of) but the more food is prepared using bad sanitary practices, the greater the likelihood people will get sick, and seriously sick.

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            Fortunately, it works really well for home cooks who know to wash things that come in contact with raw protein.

                                            1. re: Terrie H.

                                              sorry for late reply, and i'm not trying to be a jerk about this--but the person who uses one cutting board for everything but washes it thoroughly after poultry is actually better off than this method. one or two drops of chicken slime from the top board, or grazing your finger across the surface as you remove the top board... these are enough for cross-contamination to occur. remember that the microbial pathogens we are talking about are not visible to the naked eye. the point is that the cook believes they have a clean board, when it may be contaminated with foodborne pathogens from raw poultry, or someone else comes along and believes the board is completely clean, and slices up some raw strawberries for the children or something.

                                              when you hear about foodborne illness outbreaks at church potlucks or family reunions, this is often how it occurs. people assume that an area is safe because it "looks clean"-- when the person who worked that "station" previously may have not used proper food handling/sanitation or left the area wiped down (with dirty cloth/sponge) but not *sanitized*.

                                              please understand that i am just trying to point out how the cross-contamination can occur with the double-decker board method... which means that eventually, despite everyone's best intentions, it *will* occur, and people can get sick. moving your regular board out of the way and prepping the chicken on a second board, then getting rid of the poultry board and sanitizing the prep area before moving your regular board back.... maybe it is too difficult for some folks, but some others may want to take the trouble just to be safe about things. to me, and i'm obv used to the restaurant way of doing things and have my serv-safe certification... it's not a big deal.

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                I had salmonella once - it isn't pretty.

                                                i just put the chicken package on a metal sheet pan, then open the package and use the paper or foam tray to cushion my knife (or I more often use kitchen scissors) to cut the chicken. All juices and germs are contained in the pan, which goes into the dishwasher along with the kitchen scissors.

                                                Meat and poultry do not go near my cutting boards; once was more than enough to be so ill and I would never forgive myself if I made someone else sick. Anyone who spouts such lines as, "I haven't killed anyone yet!" - well, the key word here is "yet".

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  that is a great technique w the sheet tray, i likes!

                                                  "it will never happen" is so problematic. if cross-contamination can happen, eventually it will. if it is 1/100 times, or 1/1000.... sure, it does not happen often, but if a person prepares raw poultry 3x a week, then this actually *could* mean that once a year, or once every three years, someone could get really sick. it is something to consider esp when guests/family members may have weaker immune systems. i agree w you that i personally would feel like shooting myself in the head if i made a pregnant friend, or little kid or elderly person, sick in a way that could become very serious. not that anyone ever sets out to do this, just like someone never intends to do something while driving that might cause an accident-- but better habits can prevent the problem from ever happening. i know that i have made small adjustments to my driving & cycling habits, over the years, in the interest of getting a little bit of an edge on the safety front... if it can make a real difference, why not?

                                                2. re: soupkitten

                                                  Your point that contamination can happen is well taken and very helpful for a new cook, as I believe the OP is. I still believe that the plastic cutting boards work very well. ANY kitchen tool that contacts raw protein needs to be washed. I have successfully used them for years.

                                        1. All great advice here. My only addition is that I don't use a cutting board for meat and fish. I either open the package/paper and cut it right on that, or I use a metal sheet pan for the meat/fish prep. Since I'm not chopping down into anything, no board is necessary underneath.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            I like that idea too. Although when we went fishing there was no butcher paper involved and there were lots of fish to be cut so a board was useful. I like the idea of having separate boards. I think color coding them or somehow distinguishing the fish ones from the veggies so I don't accidentally use one for the other again might be a good idea.

                                            1. re: bythebay

                                              Like these.

                                              I've posted these before on another thread. Each colour has a different stamp on the top right.

                                              Flexible, different sizes, keeps the cutting board clean, dishwasher suitable. I scrub mine with a soap brush first, then dry, or followed occasionally by the dishwasher.

                                              We have taken them fishing and sailing. The cutting board itself is as good as new.

                                          2. I'm 51, my wooden cutting board is older than I am. I use it for everything and no one has ever gotten sick.

                                            1. Unless you're feeding an infant or someone tottering on the edge of death, I think there is no reason to worry about safety. I'm sure many of us on this board would eat whatever fish you served raw without giving it a second thought. The more serious issue is that fish juice might permeate the vanilla bean pod.

                                              Let me just add...I'm not a doctor. But I have traveled all over the world eating all sorts of stuff--indeed, whatever I want--from unpasteurized dairy products in France (and the U.S., despite the feds' best efforts to shut this down), to every imaginable sort of raw seafood in Japan, to street dishes from filthy vendors in Cambodia, Laos, and Nepal. I regularly eat at restaurants that have a B or "gasp" C in the window. (I wouldn't hesitate to eat a restaurant that has an F in the window.) Yesterday, I ate some live spot prawns, with their roe and tomalley, that I bought from the seafood market. I cook almost every day and pay *zero* attention to "food safety." And I haven't got food poisoning or had any issue whatsoever for 13 years. And you know what...food poisoning lasts a day or so and life goes on.

                                              In fact, people all over the world enjoy what they eat without America's neuroticism about "food safety," which is completely illegitimate in my opinion (except, as I noted, for concerns about infants, the feeble, or the elderly--but common sense tells one to be more careful about what you serve these people). I think it's sponsored by American's big corporations, who want every American to eat sterile food that comes in boxes with corporate logos and slogans. Real "food safety" would mean a ban on the highly refined, sugary, chemical-laden corporate garbage that forms the basis of most Americans' diets--the deadly bacteria-less stuff that the FDA adores.

                                              Sorry for this rant, but I found your post extreme to the point of absurdity. I'm sure, however, that the health department would give your kitchen a C for this tragic turn of events. I am sure most Americans' homes would fail health department inspections. Virtually all of us manage to survive and thrive.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: AlkieGourmand

                                                The first statement here is false and even irresponsible. I'm no fanatic about overcooking things to guarantee safety, and am in fact a serious sushi eater and have eaten my share of raw fish, which I believe is safe enough in a good sushi bar. But the pathogens which are sometimes found in poultry are not to be taken lightly.

                                                To consider just one, Campylobacter jejeuni, this bacterium is a common cause of food poisoning. While it is true that a healthy person will almost certainly survive an unpleasant episode with this infection, this is not the only danger. C. Jejeuni is also a known trigger for Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which will develop in a small percentage of those infected. The health and strength of the person are not factors. The severity of the GI distress response to the infection is not a factor. GBS can develop even from subclinical infections. This, and the closely related disease CIDP, is an acquired peripheral neuropathy causing paralysis. It can put some afflicted with it in the hospital for a year or more, can leave permanent disabilities (although complete recovery is possible), and can lead to death in a few cases. The cost of treating the disease is ruinous for anyone lacking good insurance who is not extremely wealthy.

                                                There is no way to tell in advance whether someone is susceptible to GBS or CIDP, and even if one is diligent about safe handling of poultry it may be acquired in other ways. Nevertheless, it seems foolhardy to me to to pooh-pooh the possible dangers from raw poultry.

                                              2. I have the color coded plastic boards. And I am absolutely horrible about using them for what they are 'supposed' to be used for. I usually use whichever one happens to be hanging on the top spot on the hook that I keep them on.

                                                However, I do wash them thoroughly between uses. As long as you are washing things well, you should be fine. It's not like you have separate knives for fish and veggies - you just wash them between uses.

                                                But hey, maybe I'm living dangerously. But it works for me, and I'm on immunosuppressants. Not dead yet...

                                                1. If your guests comment on the 'fishy' tasting ice cream smile and tell them you are serving them 'Glace a la vanille avec beurre saumon'. LOL