Your kitchen towels may be teeming with bacteria, some of which may cause food poisoning.

Credit: Pixabay.

These were the findings recently reported by researchers at the University of Mauritius, who collected 100 kitchen towels after a month of regular use and washing. The members of the household from where the towels had been collected were interviewed about their living conditions.

Researchers found that 49 of these samples were infected with bacteria, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), Enterococcus, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).

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E. coli is a normal bacteria found in the intestine and is released in large numbers in human feces while S. aureus is a bacteria found in the respiratory tract. Both can cause food poisoning, whose symptoms include nausea, explosive vomiting for up to 24 hours, abdominal cramps/pain, headache, weakness, diarrhea and usually a subnormal body temperature.

The most bacteria were found in towels collected from meat-eating families or those with many children. Towels that were used for a variety of tasks — such as wiping utensils, dryings hands, cleaning surfaces, and holding hot objects — had more bacteria than those used solely for one purpose. Damp towels were also more infected than dry ones, the authors of the study reported at the American Society for Microbiology meeting held this weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.

A study published in 2014 by Drexel University researchers came to similar conclusions, finding E. coli on almost 26 percent of towels. Another food-handling study published in 2015 found cloth towels were the most contaminated.

In order to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen, people are advised to properly wash their hands. You should avoid using towels in place of hand-washing because they can easily become contaminated with harmful germs from raw meat and poultry juices.

“Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged. Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen,” said lead author Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal in a statement.