URBANA — A recent study at the University of Illinois has confirmed that The Boos Block Mystery Oil and Board Cream not only protects the wood but also has hygienic benefits.

Ted Gravenhorst Jr., vice president of sales and marketing for Effingham-based John Boos & Co., said the study has allowed the National Sanitation Foundation to list the company's Northern Hard Rock Maple oil-finish cutting boards, kitchen islands and counter top surfaces as antimicrobial.

Since 1887, John Boos has manufactured butcher blocks from American hardwoods – Northern Hard Rock Maple, Cherry and Black Walnut.

Data gathered by the team concluded that application of the Boos Block Mystery Oil and Board Cream on the boards created an “antimicrobial, hydrophobic surface that decreased their surface bacteria to a ‘clean level’ in just three hours,” without using recommended board cleaning procedures.

The registered trademarked Boos Block Mystery Oil and Board Cream form two layers of protection to create an antimicrobial surface.

Gravenhorst added that other studies already confirmed this, but the Effingham-based company worked directly with the university's Mechanical Science and Engineering department under the research of Professor Nenad Miljkovic and his research laboratory in Urbana for the latest results.

Gravenhorst said talk about “nanotechnology” and “anti-microbial” first started with John Boos stainless steel cookware line, but found there wasn’t a demand for it, and it was a costly endeavor.

Conversations then switched to looking at the benefits of using oils and creams on wood cutting boards and they turned to Jordan Hammer, a John Boos sales information manager and graduate of the U of I.

Hammer said The John Boos team worked with the U of I team for between two and four months to get the results. He said the studies involved bacteria – E-col i and salmonella – which are two common strains found in meat.

“It was interesting to be able to test our own products,” said Hammer.

The university's engineer who led the team said it was a new path the department had not taken before.

“Teaming up with John Boos & Co., a leader in the food service industry, opened up a new avenue of academic research that we had not considered before,” said Miljkovic. “Prior to this project, we believed the function of cutting board oil was simply to prevent drying of the wood, but our research showed that it actually enables microbes to absorb into the wood grain, which contain antimicrobial enzymes that kill bacteria.”

Gravenhorst said the study enhances reasons for using the oil and cream.

“Independent research has existed about the antimicrobial qualities of hardwood boards; however, the ‘new-news’ from the University of Illinois lab confirms that the addition of Boos Block Mystery Oil and Board Cream facilitates the process of killing bacteria, thus creating a clean surface for cooks to use over and over again,” Gravenhorst said in a press release.

Even so, John Boos & Co. still highly recommends proper board cleaning, by wiping the board down with a clean disposable town after each use, rinsing the board with warm soapy water, then drying the wood board immediately with a clean cloth. The final step is to reapply a layer of Mystery Oil and a layer of Board Cream. The boards should never be put in a dishwasher or immersed in water.

“When you are really hands-on and you collaborate with the University of Illinois, you are a part of the study,” said Gravenhorst. “You see the results and they explain the results. You get honest answers.”

The company’s trademarked Mystery Oil was first marketed as a secret ingredient to preserving the wood board. But, today, the company has no problem saying what’s in it.

“It has mineral oil and beeswax in it,” said Gravenhorst. “About 15 years ago, we started to change the name from Mystery Oil. But, our largest customers said that’s what people know it as, and it was suggested we not change the name because it was starting to take off.”

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138

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