Bacteria Grows On Kitchen Towels, But Health Risks May Be Overblown

Tuesday, 12 Jun, 2018

A study presented at the annual meeting for the American Society for Microbiology, which concludes Monday, found the towels could carry pathogens potentially leading to food poisoning.

Nearly half of the tea towels analysed had bacterial growth, which increased in number with extended family and the presence of children.

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.

Nearly half the towels had bacteria growing on them - and unsurprisingly, towels used repeatedly and those that were damp were more likely to become microbe havens.

"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", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said.

S. aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children. While it's true that a new study did find that kitchen towels aren't exactly bastions of cleanliness, you don't necessarily need to forever banish them to the deepest, darkest pits of hell.

New research suggests our kitchen towels hold on to a lot of gross stuff. They noted that 49 percent of the towels had growth of bacteria in them.

Sauer advised that people should avoid using towels in place of hand-washing, because they can easily become contaminated with harmful germs from raw meat and poultry juices.

For the study, the researchers examined a total of 100 kitchen towels that had been used for one month. 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 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. Using disposable or paper towels can prevent the risk of spreading of bacteria.

Tea towels aren't the only thing in your kitchen harbouring germs.

Families who ate meat were more likely to have bacteria growing on their tea towels and E.coli indicated possible faecal contamination from bad hygiene. Hygiene maintenance is vital for families that have more members or have children and elderly she said.