"Diet, type of use, and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning", lead study author Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal of the University of Mauritius said in a release. The number of bacterial colonies growing in the towels rose with the family size and with presence of more number of children.
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 also found there was significantly more bacteria on the dish towels of larger families, extended families 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.
The researchers from Mauritius University went through 100 towels which had been used multiple times in the kitchen in a 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.
Multi-use of kitchen towels is putting households at risk of food poisoning, research suggests. But does that mean your towel can actually make you sick?
All three food poisoning bugs, which can be fatal for the elderly, were much more prevalent among meat-eating families.
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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).
Tea towels aren't the only thing in your kitchen harbouring germs.
The study is being presented at the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta, Georgia annual meet.
Use paper towels once.
Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.
"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen", Dr Biranjia-Hurdoyal added.
The presence of potential pathogens from the kitchen towels indicates that they could lead to food poisoning through cross-contamination.