Bacteria Survive on Kitchen Sponges and Towel in Restaurant and Foodservice Operations

July 24, 2020

Washington, D.C. – July 24, 2020 – Research presented at ASM Microbe Online, has shown that harmful bacteria such as E. coliSalmonella and Staphylococcus aureus can survive and persist for up to 16 days on a kitchen sponge and up to 13 days on microfiber towels.

“We conducted this study to evaluate and assess how long harmful bacteria can survive on the surface of the kitchen sponge and microfiber towel after cleaning and sanitation in food service settings,” said Zahra H. Mohammad, a postdoctoral fellow at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston.

Three independent repetitions were performed for each replicate, (18 sponges and 9 microfiber towels) inoculated with a low level cocktail of Salmonella spp., E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus and were dried for 1 hour in a biosafety cabinet to ensure sufficient attachment of bacteria. The samples were left at room temperature for 20 days. Before the addition of a bacterial cocktail, each sponge was cut into 2 parts and each towel was cut into 4 parts.

Two sponges and 2 microfiber towels for each sample were taken at time zero and 6 hours post-inoculation and washed either with sterile water or sanitizer solution (Quad solution). The washed liquid (water or sanitizer solution) and samples were then plated at each sampling time and incubated at 35 °C for 24 hours. The same procedures were repeated on days 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 19.

The results showed that E. coliSalmonella and S. aureus could survive for up to 16 days on the sponge and up to 13 days on microfiber towels. These findings provide valuable information about the risk posed by the cleaning tools used in foodservice operations. “We hope that our study outcomes will increase awareness of basic hygiene practices and training needs for employees working in the food service operations, including frequent changes of cleaning tools to prevent cross-contamination from these tools,” said Mohammad.

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Author: ASM Communications

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