Researchers at the University of Mauritius have shown that factors such as family size, type of diet, multiple consumption of towels, among other factors, influence the growth of pathogens on kitchen towels, potentially causing food poisoning. The research is presented at ASM Microbe, the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held from June 7th to June 11th in Atlanta, Georgia.
"Our study shows that the family composition and hygiene practices in the kitchen have influenced the microbial load of kitchen towels", said dr. Biranjia-Hurdoyal. "We also found that diet, type of use and wet kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning," he said.
49% of the kitchen towels collected in the study had a bacterial growth that increased in number with the extended family, the presence on children and the increase in family size. Multi-use towels (drying dishes, drying hands, keeping hot utensils, drying / cleaning surfaces) had a higher bacterial count than disposable towels and damp towels showed more bacteria than dry ones. Of the 49 samples positive for bacterial growth, 36.7% grew with coliforms, 36.7% with Enterococcus spp and 1
"In this study, we investigated the potential role of kitchen towels in cross-contamination in the kitchen and various factors that affect the microbial profile and load of kitchen towels," said Dr Susheela D. Biranjia. Hurdoyal, professor in charge at the Department of Health Sciences, University of Mauritius, lead author of the study.
A total of 100 kitchen towels were collected after one month of use. Researchers cultivated the bacteria and identified them by standard biochemical tests. They also determined the bacterial load on the towels.
S. aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families with low socio-economic status and with children. The risk of having coliforms (Escherichia coli) was higher than damp towels than dry ones, multi-purpose towels than disposable towels and families with non-vegetarian diets.
Coliform and S. aureus were detected at significantly higher prevalence by families with non-vegetarian diets. Escherichia coli is a normal flora of the human gut and is released in large numbers in human feces. The presence of Escherichia coli indicates the possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices.
"The data indicated that unhygienic practices when handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen," said Biranjia-Hurdoyal. The presence of potential pathogens from kitchen towels indicates that they could be responsible for cross-contamination in the kitchen and could lead to food poisoning. "Wet towels and multi-purpose use of kitchen towels should be discouraged.General families with children and senior members should be particularly attentive to hygiene in the kitchen," he said.