I prefer wood: Safety of food contact surfaces (think cutting boards)

Every generation has it’s version of the Rolling Stones: Aerosmith in the 1970s, Black Crowes in the 1980s, after that, no one seemed to cutting.board.chicken.nov.13do nostalgia as good as the Stones.

Guess every generation has their version of Susie.

Food safety also recycles common themes.

Which is better: wood or plastic cutting boards?

Food packaging is multifunctional: it protects from harvest to table. Four main groups of materials for direct food contact are mentioned in the literature: wood, glass, plastic, and metal. In this review, the focus is on wooden packaging for direct contact with food.

In Europe, wood as a food contact material is subject to European Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 states that materials must not transfer their constituents to food. Today, wooden packaging, like other packaging materials, does not have a Europe-wide harmonized specific regulation, so member countries legislate at different levels.

Wood has been safely used for centuries in contact with food but is usually questioned because of its microbiological behavior compared with smooth surfaces.

Based on a review of published conclusions from scientific studies over the last 20 y and after a description of the general properties of wooden packaging, we focus on the microbiological status of natural wood. Then, we discuss the parameters influencing the survival of microorganisms on wood. Finally, we report on the transfer of microorganisms from wood to food and the factors influencing this phenomenon.

This review demonstrates that the porous nature of wood, especially when compared with smooth surfaces, is not responsible for the limited hygiene of the material used in the food industry and that it may even be an advantage for its microbiological status. In fact, its rough or porous surface often generates unfavorable conditions for microorganisms. In addition, wood has the particular characteristic of producing antimicrobial components able to inhibit or limit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms.

Microbial safety of wood in contact with food: A review

Comprehensive Reviews In Food Science And Food Safety; 26 Feb 2016; DOI: 10.1111/1541-4337.12199

Florence Aviat, Christian Gerhards, José-juan Rodriguez-Jerez, Valérie Michel, Isabelle Le Bayon, Rached Ismail and Michel Federighi


Food fraud: Would you like wood in your cheese

The cheese you’re using on your pasta might not be so “grate” after all.

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese on a wooden chopping board.

According to Bloomberg Business, the FDA has reported that Castle Cheese Inc. — the manufacturer that makes Market Pantry’s “100% grated Parmesan Cheese,” which used to be sold at Target — used substitutes, including wood pulp on their product.

In fact, the report showed that “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” the cheese. Instead, it was made with Swiss, mozzarella and white cheddar (which are cheaper) — and the added bonus of cellulose (a byproduct of the wood pulp).

And Target isn’t alone. While a safe level of cellulose (which acts as an anti-clumping agent) is around 2 to 4 percent, according to Blomberg, certain common brands have tested much higher.

Walmart’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, for example, reportedly came in at 7.8 percent, and Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese (sold at Jewel-Osco) had 8.8 percent. Whole Foods and Kraft showed some percentage of cellulose either below or within the acceptable level.

While these substitutes and fillers are costing manufacturers less to produce, the FDA is cracking down on the people cutting the cheese—literally. According to reports, Castle Cheese Inc. has stopped making the not-so-Parmesan cheese, and filed for bankruptcy in 2014.

Pizza in Naples cooked with wood from coffins: report

I went to Naples, Italy once. For a weekend. One of the weirdest meetings I ever attended.

But it was free. And all we did was eat and drink. Sorta like that Sopranos episode where Tony and Pauley and Chrissy go to Naples for business connections and to tour the old world.

The G7 economic summit was to be held in Naples in July, 1994. Someone had the bright idea that a scientist and a journalist from each of the G7 countries should go to Naples beforehand to have a G7-like summit on enhancing communications with cancer patients.

I was over a year into my PhD studies, and had been writing somewhat regularly on science stuff for the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto, someone got my name, organizers decided I could handle the scientist and journalist part, so I was off to Naples as the Canadian representative.

I remember everything vividly, probably because the trip was so short. Flight from Toronto to Rome, train to Naples, arrived Friday afternoon. Dinner with some of the others Friday night, first meeting Saturday morning. Five minutes in, and a couple of the Italians were posturing, giving sermons for a couple of hours. I looked befuddled, so the American and British representatives took pity, and one told me, “this is what they do.”

This was followed by a huge lunch, maybe two more hours of meetings, then an elaborate dinner at a restaurant on an island off the coast of Naples. A couple of hours of meetings in the morning, where me, the Americans and the Brits said, doctors should be honest with cancer patients and tell them what’s going on, while the reps from the other countries said, we can’t do that.

Another large lunch, airport, home.

I’d love to go back, and Italy is on the travel list for me and Amy and Sorenne now that Amy has entered sabbatical land. But I’m not sure about that Naples pizza.

The daily newspaper, Il Giornale, reported today that Italian prosecutors believe pizza in Naples may be baked in ovens lit with wood from coffins dug up in the local cemetery.

"Pizza, one of the few symbols of Naples that endures … is hit by the concrete suspicion that it could be baked with wood from coffins," Il Giornale said on Monday.

Investigators in Naples are setting their sights on the thousands of small, lower-end pizza shops and bakeries that dot the city on suspicion that the owners may "use wood from caskets to keep ovens burning."

According to tradition, Neapolitan pizza should be cooked in a stone oven with an oak-wood fire.

Italy’s estimated 25,000 pizzerias employ around 150,000 people and account for a turnover of 5.3 billion euros ($A7.4 billion).

I use a pizza stone and a gas oven, but the result ain’t bad. Homemade pizza dough, about 30 per cent semolina flour, and 35 per cent each of whole wheat and white flour with garlic and rosemary from the herb garden baked into the dough. Tonight’s creation was topped with canned tomato sauce (same as the stuff in glass, half the price), mushrooms, red pepper, yellow squash, asparagus, olives and mozzarella cheese. Sorenne liked it.

Note: No graves were desecrated in the making of this pizza.