Kitchen Towels Are Source of Possibly Pathogenic Bacteria

Yes There Are Bacteria on Your Kitchen Towel. No They Won't Make You Sick

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Factors, including family size, type of diet, multi-usage of towels, impact the growth of pathogens on kitchen towels, potentially causing food poisoning, says researchers from the University of Mauritius.

The researchers found that 49% of the kitchen towels had bacterial growth, which increased significantly by size of family, extended family, and presence of children.

Bacteria were also found in higher volumes on tea towels in households with larger families and on damp tea towels used before they had adequately dried. Of these samples, 36.7 percent grew coliform bacteria, a type that may include E. coli; 36.7 percent grew Enterococcus; and 14.3 percent grew staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph that can cause serious infections.

Researchers analyzed 100 towels after one month of use and found that almost half had bacterial growth.

The findings are consistent with previous research showing that towels and other kitchen items can be reservoirs for bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.

Family composition and hygiene practices are associated with the microbial load of kitchen towels, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held from June 7 to 11 in Atlanta.

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

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"Kitchen towels won't necessarily make you sick", he said, "but they are a reservoir for these organisms that can sometimes be problematic".

"They should be machine washed in hot water with soap and bleach if white, or if colored use a peroxide-containing soap made for sanitizing colored clothes", said Philip Tierno Jr., PhD, clinical professor of Microbiology and Pathology at NYU School of Medicine.

Tea towels that aren't washed regularly or left to dry between uses carry nasty bugs like E.coli and staph bacteria.

Avoid using tea towels as a "hand towel" after washing your hands or to dry benchtops - keep a separate towel in the kitchen for that goal.

Moreover, the coliform bacteria and staphylococcus aureus were discovered to have a higher prevalence in towels collected from households eating non-vegetarian meals.

"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said. The presence of Escherichia coli was said to indicate a possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices such as washing hands. Specifically, S. aureus was more likely to be found on towels from larger families and those of lower socioeconomic status, while the intestinal bacteria were more likely to be found in families that ate meat.

Multiple use increases the chance of cross-contamination of potential pathogens that can spread bacteria and lead to food poisoning.

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