Re: Cutting boards color-code
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 09:44:43 -0700 (MST)
> Part of ergonomics is making use of the reasons people do things.
> Successful design does not expect people to be rational at all times and
> takes account of motivation.  Some people will switch to a clean board to
> honor someone else's ritual purity rules, even if they themselves don't
> believe in them, but will pooh-pooh the risk of food poisoning -- it can't
> be that big a risk, after all, _I've_ never died of it ;).  

Mmm.  I'm one of those people who have a vague feeling that this issue
is getting blown out of proportion (though I remain open minded to new
information about it - I'm certainly no expert about food poisoning
issues).  I feel the case for a need to take more precautions than what
comes naturally to the average cohouser hasn't yet been made

It's not just that I didn't die.  I don't believe anyone has exhibited
any case in which anyone got sick because they ate a community meal at a
cohousing community.  If there *have* been any cases I'd love to hear
about them.  But, assuming there haven't been any, it would seem that
what comes naturally to John Q. Cohouser is mostly good enough.  It
seems to me that the need to start using measures like forbidding
sponges, bleaching the counters, using color-coded cutting boards, etc,
really isn't established.

(I'm all for cooking food thoroughly, putting the leftovers away
promptly, washing hands, etc).

However, even
> if they are changing to a clean cutting board for reasons that have nothing
> to do with food safety, their action nonetheless lowers (or at least common
> sense says it ought to) the risk of food poisoning.

Common sense is often a dangerous thing.  (For example, I read in
Scientific American in the last couple of years that it is actually
counter-productive to use anti-bacterial shampoos or soaps in the
shower, because you kill your natural harmless skin bacteria, and this
creates an ecological opportunity for more pathological ones to take
over, and then they might later get into a cut and cause problems.  I
have no idea if the same issues might arise on cutting boards, but it at
least causes me to wonder).

> "That incidence rate would indicate that on average more than one in four
> people eat sickening food each year. The data also indicate that an
> estimated 325,000 require hospitalization?and almost 5,200 die?because of
> foodborne illness."

Clearly a problem worth societal attention.  What is still lacking for
me is: where does the risk come from?  Is it

        A) mainly from Joe's diner where the kitchen hasn't been 
          cleaned in years?  
        B) mainly from folks like my anonymous relative who left 
          chicken out on the counter for 36 hours before serving it?  

        C) Is there really any significant risk to me because one of 
          my neighbors didn't clean the common house cutting board with 
          peroxide, or to them because I use a sponge to clean up.

The case for C) is very unclear to me.


Stuart Staniford-Chen --- President --- Silicon Defense
                   stuart [at]
(707) 822-4588                     (707) 826-7571 (FAX)

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