Health Care

Using tea towels for more than one job 'can cause food poisoning'

Using tea towels for more than one job 'can cause food poisoning'

"Diet, type of use, and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said in a statement.

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. They found that 49 percent of the towels exhibited growth of bacteria normally found in or on the human body. Scientists from the University of Mauritius have found that the towels used for multiple jobs such as wiping utensils, drying hands, holding hot utensils, and cleaning surfaces, had a higher bacterial count.

The risk of harboring coliforms, such as E. coli, was higher in humid towels than dry ones. Of the 49 samples that tested positive: "36.7 per cent grew coliforms (E. coli), 36.7 per cent Enterococcus spp and 14.3 per cent S. aureus".

These findings were presented at the annual meeting for the American Society for Microbiology, which concluded yesterday.

Although the new finding may sound gross, it doesn't mean you should ditch your kitchen towel; experts said the bacteria found on the towels in this study aren't particularly concerning when it comes to foodborne illnesses.

New research suggests our kitchen towels hold on to a lot of gross stuff.

About half of tea towels used repeatedly over a month were found to be contaminated with bacteria, such as E. coli, a strain of bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning.

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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.

"However, even when provided with disposable single-use paper towels, participants were still observed using these in a way that led to additional contamination of contact surfaces", he noted.

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

Moreover, the coliform bacteria and staphylococcus aureus were discovered to have a higher prevalence in towels collected from households eating non-vegetarian meals. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said.

Cathy Moir, a senior food microbiologist at CSIRO, said the same principles apply to kitchen scourers and sponges.

They found staphylococcus was more likely to be found on towels from families with children and of lower socio-economic status.


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