Your kitchen towels could give you food poisoning, study suggests

A study has revealed what may be lurking in your tea towel

Moreover diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning.

The finding is based on a University of Mauritius study of 100 kitchen towels used unwashed for one month, roughly half of which were found to have bacterial growth.

Germs were more likely to be found on towels that didn't get dry thoroughly, towels that were used for multiple purposes like drying dishes and hand, and towels in homes with children.

Of the 49 towels that carried pathogens, nearly three-quarters 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.

There's a decent chance your kitchen towels are hiding bacteria linked to food poisoning and other infections, according to a new study, though some are urging caution before tossing those towels in the trash.

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

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

"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.

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They're in the air that we breathe, hanging out on our phones and computer keyboards - and teeming on kitchen sinks, counters and cutting boards.

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

Tea towels that aren't washed regularly or left to dry between uses carry nasty bugs like E.coli and staph bacteria. Coliform and S. aureus were detected at significantly higher prevalence from families with non-vegetarian diets.

"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.

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

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

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

Can kitchen towels cause food poisoning or illnesses?