How often to clean kitchen towels to avoid getting sick, E. coli

Tea towel

In the 49 towels that showed bacterial load, 36.7 percent showed coliform bacteria or a group that includes the deadly E. coli.

S. aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children.

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

Those used for a range of purposes, such as for wiping utensils, wiping and cleaning surfaces, and drying hands, were found to have higher amount of bacteria compared with single use towels.

But while these numbers may seem alarming, Anthony D. Baughn, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at University of Minnesota Medical School, said there's no reason to be overly anxious.

"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 a load of kitchen towels", said Susheela D. Biranjia-Hurdoyal who is also the Senior Lecturer for the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Mauritius. The study didn't find any of the common culprits of foodborne illness, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter or pathogenic types of E. coli, such as E. coli O157:H7, he noted.

Every time you reuse that cloth you are wiping bacteria across your kitchen bench. Therefore, people should be sure to clean and dry their kitchen towels often, according to Dawson. USDA said washing dish towels on the hot cycle of your washing machine will remove bacteria.

FYI, nylon towels generally had less bacteria on them than cotton towels - likely because cotton is more absorbent, providing microbes more to feast on.

According to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta, Georgia, multi-use kitchen towels can pose a food poisoning risk. "Don't wrap your finger in that towel that might be laden with staph", he said. "It's better to get a fresh towel. You don't want to to introduce the bacteria into that cut".

Then the researchers rounded the dirty towels up, and took a look at what was growing on the fabric. All surfaces should be cleaned after use and most importantly hands should be washed before preparation of food and after handling raw meat, fish, eggs or poultry.

The experts have recommended that these towels and other regular use cloths in the kitchen should be replaced daily on days of cooking.



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