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Tea towels used multiple times put families at risk of food poisoning

11 June 2018

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

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

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

Participants were allowed to use the towels for a month.

Of the towels that tested positive for bacterial growth, 36.7 percent grew Enterococcus spp, 36.7 percent harbored coliforms (Escherichia coli) and 14.3 had S. aureus.

The presence of these pathogens was significantly higher for towels that were reported for "multi-purpose use" compared with towels for single goal use.

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.

Coliforms (Escherichia coli) was found to be higher in humid towels, multipurpose towels and in towels from families having non-vegetarian diets.

The researchers found that coliform and S. aureus were more prevalent in towels from families with non-vegetarian diets.

They found staphylococcus was more likely to be found on towels from families with children and of lower socio-economic status. Escherichia coli is a normal flora of human intestine and it is released in large numbers in human feces.

For the current study, the researchers purchased 100 kitchen towels - 36 that were a mixture of cotton and nylon, 33 nylon, and 31 cotton towels, "depending on what people used locally", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said.

The presence of potential pathogens from the kitchen towels indicates that they could be responsible for cross-contamination in the kitchen and could lead to food poisoning.

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. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen".

Note that this study was published as an abstract and presented at a conference.

Tea towels used multiple times put families at risk of food poisoning