By now, you’ve probably heard of TikTok’s latest food trend: the butter board.
The concept is quite simple. It is a board cleverly coated with soft butter. Often the dairy product is coated and swirled in patterns and topped with elements like honey, lemon zest, flaked salt, edible flowers, herbs and more.
Think of a charcuterie board, but instead of meats and cheeses, it’s high butter. Friends can gather around the common dish, scrape butter off the plank and onto pieces of bread with a knife, or dip their bread directly into it.
The butter board was popularized by TikTok user and food blogger Justine Doiron aka @justine_snacks. On Sept. 15, she posted a 28-second video of herself making a butter board inspired by a recipe from Joshua McFadden’s 2017 cookbook, “Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables.” To date, the clip has racked up over 8.5 million views on TikTok and another 11.2 million on Instagram.
Like the many viral food trends that have come before it, the butter board is somewhat divisive. While some are completely disgusted by the concept, others see it as a delicious indulgence.
Even if you agree with the butter tip, not all food safety experts agree. HuffPost spoke with Darin Detwiler, associate professor at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies and author of “Food Safety: Past, Present and Predictions.”
Below, he shares some food safety concerns about the butter tray and tips for minimizing the risks involved.
Is the butter board safe?
It’s perhaps unsurprising that Detwiler has some concerns about a dish that involves groups of people huddled on a small board as they eat and touch a dairy product.
He warned would-be butter board eaters to watch out for “cross-contamination with many hands contaminating the butter board” and “dairy products left out of the fridge too long – keep cold foods cold”.
Be aware of people’s food allergies, as butter boards contain dairy and other potential allergens like nuts and certain fruits or vegetables. The popularity of wooden boards as the basis for many butter boards on social media also gave Detwiler pause.
“Consider the inability to sanitize a wooden board, with its micro-cracks and knife gauges that harbor pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella,” he explained. “Foodborne pathogens can make anyone sick, but the most vulnerable populations ― the very young, the elderly, the immunocompromised and pregnant women ― are the most likely to end up with reported cases, confirmed, hospitalized and even die as a result of such an illness.
Detwiler noted that E. coli, salmonella, and listeria are typical foodborne pathogens and, in rare cases, can lead to serious, life-threatening complications like hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Always see a doctor if you think you have contracted any of these infections.
“Could people get sick from a butter board, that’s 100% possible because people have gotten sick from contaminated surfaces and person-to-person contact,” he added. .
How can you minimize security risks?
The risk of getting sick from a butter board still seems relatively low, other experts say.
“It’s not something that would be in my top 20 or top 50 things to risk,” food safety expert Benjamin Chapman told The New York Times.
Although Detwiler is a bit more worried, he thinks a safe butter experiment is possible.
“Keep everything clean, cold, and conservative — not too much at a time,” Detwiler says. “Also, keep in mind if people have food allergens and keep those foods away from other foods.”
If you want to use a cutting board, choose it wisely. The United States Department of Agriculture advises using one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and a separate board for fresh produce and bread, so you may want to also avoid cross contamination by using a separate tray for your butter board fantasies.
“Use a plastic board or serving platter rather than a wooden board,” Detwiler recommended. “With any board, sanitize using one teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water.”
Also pay attention to timing. American butter tends to require refrigeration, and the USDA warns against setting aside foods that require refrigeration for more than two hours — and no more than an hour if the room temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Salted butter is also more protected against bacteria than unsalted butter, so more suitable for room temperature conditions.
It should also be noted that people in many other countries keep their butter on the counter. Even the USDA admits that butter is safe at room temperature, but notes that “if butter is left at room temperature for several days, the flavor may go rancid, so it’s best to leave out whatever you can use. in a day or two.”
Still, if you’re working with a chilled product and want to play it safe, limit how long people can enjoy your buttery creation.
“Don’t leave the butter boards out for more than two hours,” Detwiler advised. He also offered a more hygienic alternative to the big swipe masterpieces on TikTok.
“Lots of dirty hands can spread not only foodborne pathogens, but also other pathogens and viruses,” Detwiler noted. “Use multiple smaller boards, as opposed to one large board, to minimize the number of hands in the food.”
So, is the butterboard trend here to stay? It’s hard to say, but with rumors of an impending butter shortage, we may not even have the option.