Stay Safe – Check the Kitchen Dish Towels
A new study suggests that if you are looking for contamination in your kitchen, you just might check those kitchen towels. A recent study published in the journal Food Protection Trends investigated the occurrence of bacteria in kitchen towels often used to dry dishes, hands, and other surfaces in the home kitchen.
Several studies have documented the common occurrence of large populations of fecal bacteria in kitchen sponges and clothes used when washing dishes by hand, where the moist environment and collected food residues create an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria.
In the August study, a total of 82 kitchen hand towels were collected from households in 5 major cities in the United States and Canada and the numbers of total bacteria,fecal bacteria, and Escherichia coli (nonpathogenic, generic) in each towel were determined. Households that provided the towels answered a survey related to towel use and frequency of cleaning including: age of towel (in months), frequency of washing of towel in days per month, towel frequency of use, and the number of days since the towel was last washed.
All kitchen towels collected in the 5 cities had at least 1,000 bacteria per towel and some had 1,000,000,000 per towel. The overall average across the 82 kitchen towels was 100,000,000 per towel. Fecal bacteria were detected in 89.0% of towels and E. coli in 25.6% of towels.
The results show that kitchen towels can be a source of bacteria that can cross-contaminate otherwise clean dishes, hands, and surfaces. Frequent cleaning is a must! The best choice for high-bacteria kitchen clean ups, such as wiping up after handling raw meat, fish, poultry or eggs, is to use a paper towel. If you don’t use paper towels for clean-ups, here are some kitchen safety tips:If you use a kitchen towel, launder it after each meal.
- If you can’t do laundry right away, remove the towel from the kitchen to a rack for drying, and then launder once you have enough for a load.
- Use hot-water machine washing followed by machine drying to help reduce the number of bacteria harboring in your towel.
- Keep one set of towels just for hand-drying in the kitchen, and another for drying dishes and counter-tops. Launder at the end of each day. Color-coating the towels, i.e. green ones for clean hands and red ones for kitchen surfaces, will help prevent cross contamination. And if you have young children, color-coding towels will make learning easier.
- Don’t hand-dry dishes with a cloth towel. Allow dishes to drain in a drying rack, well separated to facilitate air movement.