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Why Use Separate Cutting Boards for Meat and Produce?

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Don’t let your cutting board become a germ fest. Learn why using separate cutting boards for meat and produce is a must for food safety.

When you’re cooking at home, it’s easy to think that a cutting board is just a cutting board. But let me tell you something, it’s really a breeding ground for germs. Like a frat house for bacteria, you know what I mean?

You might be reading this and thinking, “Nah, I hear you, but I’ll just wash it off with soap and water, and problem solved.” But, my friend, you and I both know the answer isn’t that simple.

Read on; I’ll tell you why.

By using the same cutting board for raw chicken, beef and other meats, you’re transferring any bacteria from the raw meat — and, as this article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, there are many — onto your fruits and veggies. And that’s not something you want to serve to your loved ones, unless you’re trying to make them sick, which I’m sure you’re not.

So go get yourself two cutting boards, one for meats and one for produce, and the next time you’re whipping up a meal, remember to grab the right cutting board for the job. Otherwise, you’ll be playing a dangerous game of kitchen roulette with your health.

Trust me, it’s not worth the risk. Just look at the numbers:

Every year, 1 in 6 Americans are getting hit by a foodborne illness — that’s tough. These illnesses lead to hospitalizations, 128,000 hospitalizations, and even death, 3,000 deaths. And you know what? Some of these are preventable.

By using separate cutting boards for meat and produce, you’re protecting yourself and the family members you cook for from becoming a statistic.

That’s gotta be something, right?

Why You Need to Use Separate Cutting Boards

Cutting boards are like a five-star hotel for germs.

They’re where pathogens grow and flourish, and before you know it, you got yourself a potential cross-contamination — and food poisoning — situation. This happens because any kind of raw meat may harbor bacteria, lots of it, which can stick to the cutting boards and linger in the crevices.

Meats are cooked at high temperatures, which can quickly kill the bacteria and other microorganisms that may have contaminated it. But what about the juices and raw bits and pieces of meat left behind on the cutting board?

See, if the same cutting board is used to cut fruits and veg, which are usually eaten raw, this is a problem. It’s like inviting the bacteria to a cross-contamination party that you don’t want to be the host of. And even if you gave it a good soap down, do you want to take the risk of a bunch of germs hiding in some nook or cranny, waiting to hop from that cutting board onto the tomatoes and cukes?

This problem can be easily dealt with by using two different cutting boards for various types of foods. One for red meat, poultry, and seafood — and another for fruits and vegetables.

How Restaurants Deal With This

When it comes to restaurants, they’re not playing around when it comes to food safety. They know that one slip up can lead to a bad reputation, and nobody wants that. So, they got a secret weapon, and it’s called color-coding cutting boards.

In most restaurants, at least the ones serious about food safety, they use differently colored cutting boards for different types of food to avoid cross-contamination. It’s like a traffic light system for bacteria. Red for meats, yellow for poultry, green for fruits and veggies, and so on.

It’s a simple but very effective way to keep things organized and safe in the kitchen. Oh, and they still run the cutting boards in the dishwasher or clean and sanitize them manually between uses, and you should, too.

How You Can Deal With This at Home

It’s not just restaurants that use this method, though. Even home cooks are catching on to the trend, and that’s good. So, next time you’re shopping for new cutting boards, think about investing in color-coded ones if they’re plastic — it’s like insurance for your stomach.

Now if you’re like me and you prefer to use wooden cutting boards, don’t worry, you still have options. One is to use the shape of the board as your coding system. For example, rectangular for produce and round for meats. It’s like a shape code for food safety.

Or, you can do what I do. I have the same cutting boards, but the one I use for meats is always kept upside down. It’s like a secret code; only the members of my family knows what it means. And, trust me, it works like a charm.

In Summary

Using separate cutting boards for different types of food can help prevent cross-contamination and, in turn, food poisoning. Restaurants use color-coding cutting boards to keep things organized and their food safe. As a home cook, you should also invest in color-coded cutting boards and clean and sanitize them between uses.


Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained chef with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.

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