Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

The ugly side to your household tea towel

The ugly side to your household tea towel

Kitchen towels can be a source of harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning, according to a study led by an Indian-origin researcher which showed that factors like family size, type of diet and multiple usage can boost the growth of pathogens. The study found that 49 percent of the towels tested positive for bacteria and that the amount of bacteria was higher for towels used by large families or families with children, compared with towels used by smaller families or families without children.

The towels for multipurpose usage such as wiping utensils, drying hands, holding hot utensils and wiping/cleaning surfaces, had a higher bacterial count than single-use towels while humid towels showed higher bacterial count than the dry ones. The risk for E. coli was higher in damp towels than dry ones, from towels used for several jobs rather than single-use ones, and from those used in non-vegetarian households.

To conclude the study, the researchers involved around one hundred towels.

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

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Georgia.

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100 tea towels were examined in a new study and the results will leave you gagging.

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

"Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels", said Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, of the University of Mauritius.

If you wipe a floor spillage with a tea towel, the advice is to put that in the wash instead of then using it to dry cutlery.

We're talking about kitchen towels.

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"This will reduce the opportunity for bacteria to grow to potentially unsafe levels", he said.

They found staphylococcus was more likely to be found on towels from families with children and of lower socio-economic status. The presence of Escherichia coli indicates possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices.

Both E. coli and S. aureus were found at higher rates in families with non-vegetarian diets. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said.

The bacteria found in these cloths can be anything from E.coli to salmonella - all mainly from food prepared in the kitchen.

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

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