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safe dishes - not again

updated mon 23 mar 98


JJHerb on sun 22 mar 98

In response to Gavin Stairs of 3/20/98,

The Thing about wood cutting boards is empirical. During testing, a culture
of harmful bacteria was applied to both wood and plastic surfaces and an
attempt to recover the culture was made after some time. It was possible to
recover the culture from plastic surfaces but not from wood. This is after
health officials went to great lengths to get wood out of commercial kitchens.
This doesn t mean wood tools can substitute for good hygiene but a well
maintained, regularly cleaned wooden cutting board is better than a similarly
treated plastic one.

I have argued in the past that crazed dinnerware is probably a bad idea and I
generally avoid it when possible. My concern about the cracks in the glaze is
more with what they contain to distribute than what they expose to be leached.
My contention is that a fine craze crack could contain, under bad
circumstances, enough of a harmful germ to infect a person using the dish.
This seems to be an arguable point for some (I don t know why) but consider
the following possibility. A dishwasher breaks a glass and cuts his hand. He
bleeds on a dish or dishes. He has, it later turns out, hepatitis. If the
dishes are sound (no cracks) the most cursory washing will probably remove the
germs. The drying of the dishes will also contribute to the destruction of
the germs. But what about a dish with a crazed glaze? What washing is
necessary to cleanse the crack, will hot water and soap be enough?

There are emergent varieties of Streptococcus and Staphylococcus that are both
antibiotic and disinfectant resistant. This development could put us back
into the pre-WWII days when infections were a major cause of death. While I
don t believe pottery is responsible for the scourges that haunt the future, a
little care could go a long way.