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A recent study by researchers from the University of Mauritius highlighted, that the multi-use of tea towels in kitchens pose a significant risk of contamination and can cause food poisoning. The survey found that 49% of tea towels tested had bacteria on them and that this increased in proportion to the type of usage and dampness.

Contamination of tea towels can come about if they are used for cleaning, hand drying, wiping the face or dirty plates and equipment. The growth of the bacteria comes about if tea towels are left damp at room temperature, becoming an ideal breeding ground for the pathogens that cause food poisoning.

Tea towels and chefs cloths now have two main functions in the kitchen, which are to carry hot items so as to avoid burns and to dry equipment. To prevent cross contamination from tea towels in the kitchen -

Porters should:

  • Have separate cloths for drying clean equipment
  • Ensure tea towels used for cleaning equipment are clean at the beginning of the shift
  • Change tea towels throughout the day as they become damp
  • Store damp tea towels away from dry clean equipment and surfaces
  • Allow washed equipment to dry naturally whenever possible
  • Make sure the rinse water to the dish washer is at the correct temperature, so the equipment dries quicker

Chefs should:

  • Have separate cloths for handling hot equipment
  • Avoid wiping hands or the face on the cloth
  • Change the cloth if it becomes dirty and contaminated
  • Avoid wiping dirty surfaces and equipment with the cloth
  • Arrange for the tea towels to be cleaned on a 90˚C wash

Commenting on this topic, Peter Christopher-Ohrt, Managing Director Technical Services, Food Alert Ltd, said “Tea towels and chefs cloths pose a significant risk of contamination in any kitchen.  E.coli can easily be contaminated around the kitchen on tea towels or chef cloths, which can result in food poisoning, as it only takes ten E.coli bacteria to make someone ill.  It is therefore vitally important that everybody in the kitchen employs hygienic practices when using tea towels and cloths.”

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