Researchers say kitchen towels could be reason for food poisoning

Leslie Hanson
June 11, 2018

The more children a family had, the more likely the sample was to contain bacteria - and towels used for multiple purposes, such as holding hot items and wiping surfaces, were the worst.

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.

Out of these 49 percent had bacterial growth which increased in number with extended family, presence on children and increasing family size.

In the study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta Georgia, researchers showed that the size of a family, diet type at home, and multi-usage of towels are among the factors that can influence the growth of disease-causing pathogens on kitchen towels, which can potentially lead to food poisoning. Biranjia-Hurdoyal and colleagues then cultured the bacteria in the towels and identified them using standard biochemical tests.

Of the 49 towels showing bacterial growth, nearly three-quarters grew bacteria normally found in the intestines, such as E. coliand Enterococcus species.


The presence of these potential pathogens from the kitchen towels indicates that they could be responsible for cross-contamination in the kitchen and could lead to food poisoning, the researchers said. Another 14% grew colonies of Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staph" - a bacteria that is normally found on human skin and in the respiratory tract, according to the study. The majority are harmless but some can cause severe food poisoning and serious infection.

"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said.

Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, of the University of Mauritius, said: 'Our study demonstrates the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels.

Ever wonder how much bacteria is growing on your kitchen towel? "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen", she said. It is killed by cooking and pasteurisation.

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