42: Tea towels a source of bacteria in kitchen

I was never a paper towel kinda guy.

I have about 30 tea towels, including one with images of all of Sorenne’s prep (kindergarten) pals and teachers.

They are my go-to sweat rags, hand wipes and kitchen cleaner-uppers.

As advised by The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, never leave home without a towel.

About five go into the laundry every day.

According to a study published by the University of Mauritius, and presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, your kitchen towels may be the leading culprit of pathogen advancement.

“Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels,” said Dr. Biranjia-Hurdoyal. “We also found that diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning,” she said.

Researchers collected a total of 100 kitchen towels after one month of use. Using standard biochemical tests, they concluded that 49% of the kitchen towels collected in the study had bacterial growth. The bacterial growth increased in number with family size—whether by extended family, or the presence of children.

Experts discourage using kitchen towels for multiple purposes (wiping utensils, drying hands, holding hot utensils, wiping/cleaning surfaces) because they had a higher bacterial count than single-use towels. They also warn against using humid towels because they too showed higher bacterial count than dry ones. Pathogens on kitchen towels would indicate that they could bear some responsibility for cross-contamination in the kitchen and, ultimately, food poisoning. Households with children, older adults or others with immunosuppression should be especially vigilant about hygiene in the kitchen.

But, like other studies of sponges and things, the researchers don’t account for the level of cleaning in a particular household. Five a day, into the laundry.

And rather than blame consumers, have a look at bacterial loads on chef aprons.