Restaurant cloths health risk for eating out

The Health Protection Agency has filed a study that reports more than half of all restaurants may be spreading harmful bacteria through the cloths they use for cleaning.  The cloths that are used to clean food prep surfaces may be spreading harmful bacteria instead.  The HPA found intolerable levels of bacteria on 56 per cent of cloths used for cleaning in 133 restaurants surveyed in the North-East.

Enterobacteriaceae was discovered on nearly 65 per cent of the cleaning cloths, although not always at harmful levels.  One in every six cloths contained E. Coli.  Staphylococcus aureus was apparent on one of twenty cloths and Listeria on one of twenty-five.

This revelation comes against a backdrop of more than one million cases of food poisoning per year.  Most cases merely cause stomach upset, but as many as 20,000 are hospitalised and 500 die.

The HPA recommends that restaurants use disposable cleaning cloths to help curb the epidemic.  Recent studies, however, reveal that only about 32 per cent of catering premises follow this suggestion.  The other 68 per cent admit to using durable cloths and 15 per cent could not comment on how often those were replaced.

One of the best ways to avoid contamination is to separate cloths used for raw foods from those that are not.  The research, however, determined that this distinction is not often enough made.  The study also showed that there is no consistency in how often durable cloths are disinfected.  Most restaurants disinfected their reusable cloths every ten to twenty-four hours, with some going longer than twenty-four hours and a group having no idea how often the cloths were disinfected at all.