Kitchen towels can cause food poisoning

Roughly half of the kitchen towels sampled in the study were teeming with bacteria.					Getty Images

Roughly half of the kitchen towels sampled in the study were teeming with bacteria. Getty Images

Researchers from the University of Mauritius have shown that factors such as family size, type of diet, multi-usage of towels and other factors, impact the growth of pathogens on kitchen towels, potentially causing food poisoning.

Lead author Dr Biranjia-Hurdoyal said: "Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels".

Non-vegetarian diets, multipurpose use, and leaving the towels moist may increase the risk of or directly promote the growth of pathogens, Biranjia-Hurdoyal added.

They found that 49 percent of them had bacterial growth; towels from larger families, particularly those with children or an extended family, were more infested.

Their research discovered E. coli was more likely to be found on tea towels used for more than one job, including cleaning surfaces and wiping utensils, as well as drying hands.

These bacteria also tend to grow faster in warm, damp environments such as kitchen sponges, towels and drains.

Further, S aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children.

The USDA also recommends taking several precautions when preparing food in the kitchen in order to prevent the spread of germs that could make you or your family sick.

A new study explored the kind of bacteria likely to reside in our kitchen towels.

Although staph can indeed cause foodborne illness when it's found in food, the bacterium is also very common on skin.

For the study, researchers handed out 100 fresh kitchen towels to people and sent them home to use the rags for a one-month study period. 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.

Of the 49 samples that were infested with bacteria, 37 percent had Escherichia coli (E. coli), 37 percent had Enterococcus, and 14 percent were infected with Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).

Use different towels for different chores. This could happen if, for instance, someone used a kitchen towel to wipe up meat juices from the counter and another person unknowingly used the towel to dry their hands, Chapman said. The presence of Escherichia coli indicates possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices.

She said that these results show bad handling of non-vegetarian foods in the kitchen. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen".

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