I have been served all types of dishes on wooden boards, from sharing platters, main courses, desserts to afternoon tea. Each time I ordered I mentioned I was gluten and dairy free and each time I have been served the server has never mentioned what the food is served on.
I have been told by many businesses that serving food on rustic boards enhances the experience for the customer and goes with the theme of their venue.
Why should they change?
The potential for cross contamination in wooden boards is greater in the case of allergies, coeliac disease and intolerances than serving on any other vessels.
I have mentioned this to many servers and management teams and they have responded either with
- We clean the board using sanitizer! Sanitizers do not kill allergens
- We put them in a dishwasher which is over 80o These types of temperatures will split the wood causing allergens to be harboured with the cracks.
Recently Ibrahim’s Grill and Steak House restaurant based in Birmingham, has been fined £50,000 in addition to other costs for serving food on unhygienic wooden boards and putting the health of their customers at risk.
You might think this would not happen to you but here is an example of boards I have been served food on. When I asked for another meal on a plate I was responded to with eye raising and tutting because of the inconvenience caused.
Tips when using alternatives to plates
Here are some tips we would advise if you use wooden boards or porous serving receptacles such as Slate.
- On arrival when and handing out menus and if you have a policy about asking if customers have allergies, coeliac disease or intolerance, mention that some food is served on wooden boards
- If someone mentions they have an allergy mark their ticket with NO boards
- Have signage in the kitchen to alert staff that allergy, coeliac and food intolerant customers should NEVER be served food on boards or porous products
- Preparation area – signage as per previous points – use allocated boards and preparation surface
- Note – just because you use a lining paper on the board this will NOT prevent cross contamination
- Put notices and training in place for when cleaning down in preparation for allergen free dishes
- Always use hot soapy water to remove all traces of food stuff
- Use a single use disposal cloth
- Follow up with sanitizer – highlight sanitizer DOES NOT kill allergens
- If serving on a plate, ensure it is NOT chipped or damaged
Finally the preference would be NOT to use wooden boards to serve meals as this would remove all risks for both allergic reactions and food poisoning.