Kitchen tea towels can cause food poisoning

Desiree Burns
June 11, 2018

Dirty kitchen towels can aid the growth of pathogens and cause food poisoning, a new research has claimed.

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

A total of 100 kitchen towels were collected after one month of use.

"Some use it to clean their tables, some use it to clean their plates - whatever they want to do with it", she stated.

Your tea towel is a filthy rag covered in bacteria which can make you poo through the eye of a needle for days, scientists have revealed.

Out of these 49 percent had bacterial growth which increased in number with extended family, presence on children and increasing family size.

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Nearly three-quarters of the cotton towels had bacterial growth, followed by 42% of nylon towels and about a third of those that were a cotton/nylon mixture. Biranjia-Hurdoyal said this is because cotton is more absorbent, so "grease and food resides there longer and bacteria grow for a longer period of time". Humid towels also have more bacteria compared with the dry ones.

They found that E.coli was more likely to be found on tea towels that are used for several purposes such as drying kitchen utensils and wiping surfaces, as well as drying hands.

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

All three food poisoning bugs, which can be fatal for the elderly, were much more prevalent among meat-eating families. There was no E. coli or S. aureus isolated from single objective use towels compared to E. coli in 7.3% and S. aureus in 17.1% of multi-purpose use towels, respectively.

"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 Susheela D. Biranjia-Hurdoyal, senior lecturer of health sciences at the University of Mauritius and a lead author on the study presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. How often do you wash them?

The study was funded by the University of Mauritius.

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