How Your Kitchen Towels Can Cause Food Poisoning

Researchers say kitchen towels could be reason for food poisoning

"In this study, we investigated the potential role of kitchen towels in cross-contamination in the kitchen and various factors affecting the microbial profile and load of kitchen towels", said Susheela D. Biranjia-Hurdoyal, senior lecturer of health sciences at the University of Mauritius and a lead author on the study presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

We're all guilty of using a tea towel for a couple of weeks without washing it, but new research suggests that doing this could cause food poisoning.

Nearly half of the tea towels analysed had bacterial growth, which increased in number with extended family and the presence of children.

The presence of these pathogens was significantly higher for towels that were reported for "multi-purpose use" compared with towels for single objective use.

In the University of Mauritius study, scientists analysed 100 towels after a month of use and found 49 per cent had bacterial growth.

Of the 49 examples that were positive for bacterial growth, in total, 37 per cent of towels grew coliforms, 37 per cent tested positive for enterococcus bacteria and 14 per cent developed staphylococcus aureus.

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Nearly three-quarters of the cotton towels had bacterial growth, followed by 42% of nylon towels and about a third of those that were a cotton/nylon mixture. The risk of having coliforms (Escherichia coli) was higher from humid towels than the dried ones, from multipurpose towels than single-use ones and from families on non-vegetarian diets.

The food poisoning bacteria, which can be fatal for the elderly or the infirm, were more prevalent among families that had non-vegetarian diets.

Notably, S. aureus was isolated at a significantly higher rate from families of lower socioeconomic status and families with children, as well as bigger families and extended families compared with nuclear families. Escherichia coli is a normal flora of human intestine and it is released in large numbers in human feces.

The researchers said the presence of E. coli indicated possible faecal contamination and bad hygiene practices.

Ever wonder how much bacteria is growing on your kitchen towel?

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