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Disinfection of Household Cutting Boards with a Microwave Oven

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Abstract:

Used cutting boards with numerous knife marks, particularly those made of polymers, are difficult to disinfect manually. Plastic cutting boards have been preferred to wood because they can be washed in dishwashers and used in microwave ovens. Our study tested the microwave oven for disinfection of cutting boards. Surfaces of plastic and wooden cutting boards were inoculated with up to 109 CFU of Escherichia coli or other bacteria in broth culture and later sampled by contact with agar medium for CFU assay or by swabbing for ATP bioluminescence assay. On wood, almost total elimination of vegetative cells occurred with exposure times of the 3 to 4 min at a high setting on typical 450 to 600 g wooden boards, depending on board size, bacterial load, and moisture level. On plastic, microwave energy had almost no lethal effect on bacteria: 12 min of exposure did not reduce the number of bacteria significantly. Increased moisture (wetness) enhanced killing efficiency on wood, but was negligible on plastic. Temperatures near the wood surface reached 95°C within the first 4 min, whereas plastic surfaces reached no more than 40°C. Our study indicates that brief "cooking" of wooden boards at a "high" setting in a microwave oven is an effective way to kill bacteria, and thus a very simple and cheap method to protect food against cross-contaminating pathogens. Because plastic is relatively inert to microwaves, disinfection of plastic boards in a microwave oven is impractical.

Keywords: DISINFECTION; MICROWAVE; PLASTIC; WOOD

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Food Research Institute (Department of Food Microbiology and Toxicology), World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Food Virology, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA; Department of Food Science, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Food Virology, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA 2: Food Research Institute (Department of Food Microbiology and Toxicology), World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Food Virology, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA; Department of Bacteriology, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Food Virology, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA; Department of Animal Health and Biomedical Sciences, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Food Virology, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

Publication date: October 1, 1996

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