Color-coded chopping boards are being increasingly used in professional kitchens where different varieties of foods are handled on a large scale. Chopping boards made with wood or high-quality, food-grade plastic, are often manufactured in different colors, each having special meanings or symbolism.
The use of color coded chopping boards is increasing all across the world. These boards are especially beneficial for chefs and facilities that handle foods that could cause allergies, foods that some people do not eat such as meat, fish, etc, and also foods that could have bacterial or microbial contaminants.
The HACCP or the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system started recommending these color-coded chopping boards for preventing diseases, following strict standards of food safety, and especially for reducing the risk of contamination across foods. Apart from preventing contamination, color-coded chopping boards prevent the mixing of tastes of different food groups and maintain the authenticity of foods.
Let us take a look at different colors in chopping boards and what they symbolize.
Color-coded chopping boards for food safety and hygiene
In many professional kitchens, you will see sets of four or six colors in chopping boards. Chefs relate each color to a specific food group. All kitchen professionals and staff are expected to remember the different colors and stick to these codes. This helps prevent contamination, allergies, and also ensures flavor retention of delicate foods.
Although the HACCP has recommended these colors and the food groups allowed for each color, it is not a law. However, professional chefs have been using the system for a while now and this has helped maintain cleanliness, hygiene, and also prevented cross-contamination across many facilities.
In any case, whether or not chefs follow the system, hygiene is a must. Chopping boards must be cleaned thoroughly irrespective of what they have been used for. Staff members must be taught rules of chopping board hygiene as well.
Benefits of using color-coded chopping boards
Here are the reasons why commercial kitchens are using color-coded chopping boards:
Contamination from food-borne microbes can lead to many diseases, some of which can even be fatal. With FDA-approved color coded boards, you can ensure keeping cross-contamination to a minimum. Naturally, chefs need to use stringent standards of washing procedures to keep the boards clean after use.
Apart from commercial kitchens, color coded boards are increasingly being seen in senior or assisted living facilities as well as in schools where children tend to have peanut or other food allergies. These help keep seniors and immune-compromised individuals safe and healthy.
When you use color coded chopping boards, you not only prevent cross-contamination, and diseases, you also retain the taste and flavor of delicately balanced foods. You have separate boards to chop vegetables, raw meat, cooked meat, dairy and bread, nuts, and seafood. This ensures that the taste of one food group does not affect the delicate flavor of other groups.
Different color-coded chopping boards
A red color chopping board is used for handling raw meat. This can include all kinds of poultry, eggs, lamb, duck, venison, etc. These are high-risk foods as they tend to contain bacteria, especially when raw. A chopping board used for handling raw meat must be cleaned in the dishwasher or under running hot water with plenty of soap.
Red color, in general, indicates risk, warning, caution, and even danger. Therefore, red color chopping boards are an indication that they need extra handling and special cleaning after use.
Note: Some manufacturers of color coded chopping boards recommend using red color for beef only and they might include an orange-colored chopping board for cutting raw or cooked chicken. Manufacturers place symbols to depict different uses; for example, a red board might have the symbol of a cow on it while an orange board might have a chicken on it.
Blue color coded chopping boards are used for handling fish of all kinds. You will find blue chopping boards in kitchens handling sushi, shrimp, shellfish, and other seafood. Many people are allergic to these foods. As a result, it is important to keep them separate in order to prevent cross-contamination.
One of the many meanings of blue is the ocean or water. Therefore, it makes sense to have blue color chopping boards for seafood. Note that hot smoked salmon would not be chopped on a blue board; rather, it would be chopped on the yellow board (which we will explain shortly). After use, wash your blue chopping board in the dishwasher or with hot, soapy water.
Yellow color chopping boards, according to the HACCP system, are used for chopping cooked meats. This includes boiled/baked/grilled chicken, lamb, duck, turkey, cooked steak, boiled eggs, and grilled or smoked fish, etc.
Yellow is the color of warmth and the sun. So it is an ideal choice for a chopping board that handles cooked meats. Always wash yellow chopping boards thoroughly. They will not have as much bacteria as raw or uncooked meats. Still, it is always better to wash these boards with hot, soapy water.
Note: some color-coded chopping board manufacturers recommend their yellow-colored chopping board for chopping fruits like bananas, apples, kiwi, etc. These brands depict the use with a symbol of banana on their yellow board.
Use brown colored chopping boards to handle all kinds of root vegetables. These include yams, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, etc.
Brown color symbolizes earth or mud. Since root vegetables are often covered with mud, this chopping board is ideal for root vegetables. Like meat chopping boards, wash your brown chopping board with hot water and soap after each use.
The white chopping board is used for chopping dairy-based foods like cheeses, tofu, and also for bread, etc. Dairy and bread are usually white in color, so it makes sense to use a white chopping board for these foods. (Find out what white color means.)
Many people are allergic to dairy and many types of bread are handled in the same facilities which also handle nuts. This makes it important to segregate all tools used for handling such foods. As with all other chopping boards, it is vital to wash the white-colored chopping board with hot water and soap to prevent allergies.
Note: if your color coded chopping board set contains a purple board, then use that for “free-from” foods like gluten-free bread instead of the white chopping board.
A green color chopping board is used for chopping salads, fruits, and vegetables. Green color indicates nature, raw, health, and produce is also green in color. So, it is easy to remember this HACCP recommendation in chopping board color coding.
Although the HACCP does not include orange color in their color coded chopping board system, many sets come with an orange board that is specifically recommended for chopping raw or cooked chicken. Manufacturers may add a symbol of a chicken on their orange board.
As stated before, some color-coded chopping board sets contain a purple-colored board for “free-from” foods. According to the HACCP, a purple board is also recommended for chopping nuts like cashews, macadamia, Brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, and so on.
The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system of color coded chopping boards ensures food safety and hygiene. The standard may not be in use worldwide, but many commercial American kitchens are adhering to it. Some manufacturers of color coded chopping boards have also come up with their own color system in their products. It is best to follow one or the other system, in order to maintain the authenticity of food flavors and taste and also prevent cross-contamination and diseases.