Background: Cross contamination in the kitchen could contribute to home-based food poisoning. This study aimed at investigating the potential role of kitchen towels in cross contamination in the kitchen. Methods: A total of 100 kitchen towels were collected after one month of use. The bacteria were cultured and identified by standard biochemical tests. A questionnaire was also designed to investigate the potential risk factors which could affect the result. Results: Bacterial growth was found in 49% of the kitchen towels and significantly increased by size of family, extended family and presence on children. Multipurpose towels had higher CFU than single use towels (1.31 x 107 vs 6.60 x 104; p<0.05) and humid towels had higher CFU than dry ones (4.8 x 105 vs 0.5x 105; p<0.05). The mean CFU from the towels was found to be 2.76 x 105 and was significantly higher from the cotton towels (4.98 x 105) compared to the nylon (1.64 x 105) and mixture of both towels (1.89 x 105). Out of the 49 samples which were positive for bacterial growth, 36.7% grew coliforms, 36.7% Enterococcus spp., 30.6% Pseudomonas spp., 28.6% grew Bacillus spp., 14.3% S. aureus, 4.1% Proteus spp., 2.0% coagulase negative Staphylococcus. Furthermore, S. aureus was isolated at higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status (p<0.05) and those with children (p<0.05). The risk of having coliforms was twice on humid towels than the dried ones. It was also noted that as the CFU increased, the detection rate of coliform, Enterococcus spp., Proteus spp. and Bacillus spp. also increased significantly. Furthermore, Enterococcus spp. and S. aureus were isolated at higher prevalence in bigger families (p<0.05). Diet was also found to be an important factor. Coliform and S. aureus were detected at significantly higher prevalence from families on non-vegetarian diets while a higher prevalence of Enterococcus species from the kitchen towels of vegetarian families. Conclusions: This study conclude that kitchen towels could be very important source bacterial contamination which could contribute to food poisoning. The multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged.
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