There's a pretty good chance your kitchen towel is crawling with bacteria

Leslie Hanson
June 12, 2018

Few of us do - but there's a good chance these towels are crawling with bacteria that could increase your risk of food poisoning. Towels that were used for multiple purposes - such as those used for wiping utensils, drying hands, holding hot implements, and cleaning surfaces - also had a higher risk of contamination. The study found that 49 percent of the towels tested positive for bacteria and that the amount of bacteria was higher for towels used by large families or families with children, compared with towels used by smaller families or families without children.

The microbiologists found that roughly half of the 100 towels were growing unsafe microbes, including the potentially infection-inducing Staphylococcus (also known as "staph") and E. coli.

When it comes to the bacteria species, Coliform and S. aureus were found to be significantly higher in prevalence from families who have non-vegetarian diets. In addition, damp towels had more bacteria than dry ones, the investigators found.

"Diet, type of use, and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said in a statement.

According to lead author of the study, Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, the presence of coliforms indicate that there is a possibility of bad hygiene and fecal contamination.


When is the last time you washed your kitchen towels?

Further, S aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children. Bacteria also marked their presence on towels with traces of meat on it.

First, the study: Not yet available for peer-review, it was first presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta, Georgia.

The researchers said that the data suggest that unhygienic handling of non-vegetarian food commonly happens in the kitchen. Critical observations of the research conclude that multiple uses of the towels may give rise to cross-contamination by potential pathogens. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen".

The experts have recommended that these towels and other regular use cloths in the kitchen should be replaced daily on days of cooking. Biranjia-Hurdoyal conducted an earlier study of kitchen tables in 2016 and found they can also be hangout spots for risky bacteria. "There's just a wider range of sources of possible bacteria in the kitchen".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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