Kitchen towels can pose to at a risk of food poisoning

13 June, 2018, 20:43 | Author: Denise Dawson
  • Researchers say kitchen towels could be reason for food poisoning

Factors, including family size, type of diet, multi-usage of towels, impact the growth of pathogens on kitchen towels, potentially causing food poisoning, says researchers from the University of Mauritius. It was found almost half of the towels (49 percent) had bacterial growth.

Multipurpose towels (used for wiping plates, cutlery, kitchen surfaces, hands) had a higher bacterial count than single-use ones while humid towels were found to have a higher bacterial count than the dry ones.

The risk of having coliforms (Escherichia coli) was higher from humid towels than the dried ones, from multipurpose towels than single-use ones and from families on non-vegetarian diets.

Of the towel samples that tested positive for bacteria, about 73 percent grew types of bacteria found in human intestines, including E. coli and Enterococcus species.

Staphylococcus or coliform bacteria were detected on more than one-third of the tea towels used in the study.

The bacteria discovered in the towels were cultured by the researchers in order to identify and determine the bacterial load in them.

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The research was presented at ASM Microbe, the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held from June 7th to June 11th in Atlanta, Georgia.

"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling [meats] could be common in the kitchen", lead author Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal said in a statement. It was also more likely to be found on damp towels, or in places where meat was eaten.

"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. Another 14 percent grew colonies of Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staph" - a bacteria that is normally found on human skin and in the respiratory tract, according to the study. The presence of Escherichia coli was said to indicate a possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices such as washing hands.

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

Further, S aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children. Critical observations of the research conclude that multiple uses of the towels may give rise to cross-contamination by potential pathogens. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen", she said.

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