Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Using tea towels for more than one job 'can cause food poisoning'

Using tea towels for more than one job 'can cause 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 lead author Susheela D. Biranjia-Hurdoyal, senior lecturer from the Department of Health Sciences at the university. "Many E. coli, even if you ingest them, you wouldn't get sick".

When is the last time you washed your kitchen towels?

Using towels for a variety of uses increases the possibility of cross-contamination of potential pathogens that can spread bacteria and, therefore, lead to food poisoning. Thanks in part to how often they are reused, they are often filth-encrusted sheets infested with bacteria, meaning that they're putting you - an innocent kitchen-dweller - at an elevated risk of food poisoning.

A new study found kitchen towels can be a breeding ground for E. coli.

Coliform bacteria and staphylococcus were found at a "significantly higher prevalence" on towels from meat-eating households.

In addition, towels used for multiple purposes - including wiping utensils, drying hands and wiping surfaces - grew more bacteria than towels used for a single goal, the researchers found. Out of the 49 samples which were positive for bacterial growth, 36.7% grew coliforms, 36.7% Enterococcus spp and 14.3% S. aureus.

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Towels that were damp showed higher bacterial counts than dry ones, and S. aureus was more likely to be found on towels from bigger families and those of lower socioeconomic status.

Forty-nine percent of the kitchen towels collected in the study had bacterial growth that increased in number with extended family, presence of children and increasing family size.

Nearly half the towels had bacteria growing on them - and unsurprisingly, towels used repeatedly and those that were damp were more likely to become microbe havens.

The answer could be yes if you use the towel for many purposes, have a large family and are not a vegetarian, according to a new study of germs lurking on towels. It claims that the clothes, tea-towels, dish-wash sponges and the oven gloves should regularly be washed to maintain hygiene.

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. Using disposable or paper towels can prevent the risk of spreading of bacteria. The presence of Escherichia coli indicates possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices.

The researchers said that the data suggest that unhygienic handling of non-vegetarian food commonly happens in the kitchen.

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