Kitchen towels carry pathogens that can lead to food poisoning, study finds

"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. A new research study performed indicates the increased risks of food poisoning on account of reusing the tea towels. 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.

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. Humid towels also showed a higher bacterial count when compared to the dry ones.

Of the 49 samples that were infested with bacteria, 37 percent had Escherichia coli (E. coli), 37 percent had Enterococcus, and 14 percent were infected with Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).

The researchers from Mauritius University went through 100 towels which had been used multiple times in the kitchen in a month.

Family composition and hygiene practices are associated with the microbial load of kitchen towels, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held from June 7 to 11 in Atlanta.

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.

The researchers' advice? "Avoid humid and multi-usage towels", Biranjia-Hurdoyal suggested.

The best way to avoid illness is to wash your hands and kitchen surfaces regularly and cook all poultry thoroughly

Tea towels that aren't washed regularly or left to dry between uses carry nasty bugs like E.coli and staph bacteria.

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

Both E. coli and S. aureus were found at higher rates in families with non-vegetarian diets.

Maybe it's gastro... or maybe it's just your tea towel!

Bacteria can not grow on something you throw away immediately after use. The presence of Escherichia coli indicates possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices. Specifically, S. aureus was more likely to be found on towels from larger families and those of lower socioeconomic status, while the intestinal bacteria were more likely to be found in families that ate meat.

"Staph is found on the hands and can cause food-borne infection by producing a toxin outside the body".

Vanessa Coleman