"Escherichia coli is a normal flora of human intestine and it is released in large numbers in human feces", the researchers said. Towels that were used for multiple purposes - such as those used for wiping utensils, drying hands, holding hot implements, and cleaning surfaces - also had a higher risk of contamination.
Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, from the University of Mauritius, and colleagues found that 49 percent of the 100 towels they tested in their study had bacterial growth, and the amount of pathogen increases with bigger family size, extended family and presence of children. This bacterium, as well as coliforms, were also more likely to reside on towels used by families with non-vegetarian diets.
Lead author Dr Biranjia-Hurdoyal said: "Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels". Factors such as family size, type of diet, multi-usage of towels, among other factors and their impact on the growth of pathogens on kitchen towels was studied by researchers from the University of Mauritius which has led them to the conclusion that they can cause food poisoning. The presence of Escherichia coli indicates possible fecal contamination and lack of hygiene practices.
But foodies, beware: If you're not careful about how often you wash your towels, your kitchen rags could become a breeding ground for risky, stomach-sickening germs.
She said that these results show bad handling of non-vegetarian foods in the kitchen.
S. aureus was more prevalent in families of lower socioeconomic status and those with children. Of these contaminated towels, 37 per cent grew the enterococcus bacteria (which can cause a variety of infections), while 14 per cent grew the staphylococcus bacteria (a type of germ found on the skin).
Hence, the government suggest households to wash or change the towels, dish cloths, oven gloves as well as sponges on a regular basis and let them dry out completely before using again.
These findings were presented at the annual meeting for the American Society for Microbiology, which concluded yesterday. Biranjia-Hurdoyal conducted an earlier study of kitchen tables in 2016 and found they can also be hangout spots for unsafe bacteria.
So wash those used towels up every few days and enjoy your fresh, dry, disease-free kitchen.