Avoid humid towels and multi-usage of kitchen towels

Pearl Mccarthy
June 13, 2018

Multi-use of kitchen towels is putting households at risk of food poisoning, research suggests. 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. Humid towels also showed a higher bacterial count when compared to the dry ones.

Of the towel samples that tested positive for bacteria, about 73 percent grew types of bacteria found in human intestines, including E. coli and Enterococcus species.

Bacterial build-up was measured on 100 towels over the course of a month during an experiment by scientists at the University of Mauritius.

The scientists swabbed, cultured and preserved the bacterial contamination from such towels.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US.

Multipurpose towels have higher colony-forming units; humid towels have higher CFU versus dry ones.

"Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels", said lead author Susheela D Biranjia-Hurdoyal, senior lecturer, at the University of Mauritius.

They're in the air that we breathe, hanging out on our phones and computer keyboards - and teeming on kitchen sinks, counters and cutting boards.

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Maybe it's gastro... or maybe it's just your tea towel!

Your kitchen towel may harbor a number of different bacteria, a new study finds.

And while washing towels frequently is a good habit, "humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged", Biranjia-Hurdoyal says.

Coliform and S aureus were detected at significantly higher prevalence from families with non-vegetarian diets. Another 14 percent 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.

They found staphylococcus was more likely to be found on towels from families with children and of lower socio-economic status.

Families who ate meat were more likely to have bacteria growing on their tea towels and E.coli indicated possible faecal contamination from bad hygiene.

"Furthermore, reusing contaminated towels to wipe hands or other surfaces can easily lead to cross-contamination, and therefore should not be reused throughout meal preparation, since they too can contribute to contamination of hands, surfaces or other food products", Sauer said. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen", she said.

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