December 12, 2018
Kitchen towels
Wellness Tip

Beware of Bacteria on Dish Towels

by Berkeley Wellness  

Kitchen towels are a major source of bacterial contamination, a study in Food Protection Trends recently found. Using video surveillance, researchers observed 123 people preparing a meal from raw chicken or ground beef that had been inoculated with a nonpathogenic organism to serve as a tracer for cross-contamination.

Whether participants received food safety education beforehand or not, they were frequently seen touching the kitchen towels after handling the raw meats and before washing their hands (among other risky food-safety practices). Moreover, many then used the towels to dry their hands after washing them, which would re-contaminate their hands. Other surfaces—including the sink, oven, fridge, trash can handles, counters, and salt shakers—were also commonly cross-contaminated but not as much as the towels.

Sponges, which are notorious bacterial reservoirs, were not evaluated in this study, nor were cutting boards. The researchers advise washing cloth towels after using them to prepare meals that involve raw animal products—or using paper towels.

See also: Test Your Food Safety Smarts.