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Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Medical | By Garry George

Bacteria Grows On Kitchen Towels, But Health Risks May Be Overblown

Bacteria Grows On Kitchen Towels, But Health Risks May Be Overblown

"We also found that diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning", she added.

Nearly half (49%) of the towels collected had bacterial growth, which increased in number with extended family, presence of children and family size.

Multipurpose towels (used for wiping plates, cutlery, kitchen surfaces, hands) had a higher bacterial count than single-use ones while humid towels were found to have a higher bacterial count than the dry ones.

Out of the remaining towels that tested positive for bacterial presence, 36.7 percent towels contained coliform bacteria while the rest 36.7 percent contained enterococcus spp and remaining 14.3 contained staphylococcus aureus.

Bacterial build-up was measured on 100 towels over the course of a month during an experiment by scientists at the University of Mauritius. They classified the types of bacteria on the towels and also how much bacteria was present.

Their thorough research work reveals that the multiple use towel shows the presence of Escherichia coli.

Still, researchers say people should be careful when using towels in the kitchen.

"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 Dr. Susheela D. Biranjia-Hurdoyal, Senior Lecturer, Department of Health Sciences, University of Mauritius, lead author on the study.

The government recommends washing or changing dish cloths, tea towels, sponges and oven gloves regularly and letting them dry before re-use.

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.

"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen", said Biranjia-Hurdoyal.

The food poisoning bacteria, which can be fatal for the elderly or the infirm, were more prevalent among families that had non-vegetarian diets.

Non-vegetarian diets were found to increase the risk of contamination by bacteria such as E. coli.

The presence of Escherichia coli indicates possible faecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices.

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.

But Ms Moir warned that while paper towel could minimise the food poisoning risk, they are less environmentally friendly. The rate of isolation of Staphylococcus aureus was higher for families of lower socioeconomic status and those with children.

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