They found that 49% of the towels exhibited growth of bacteria normally found in or on the human body. They also found that bacteria type and rate of growth is interlinked with diet, specifically, the presence of meat.
Still, researchers say people should be careful when using towels in the kitchen.
Additionally, a 2015 US study that looked at kitchen health conditions in 100 Philadelphia homes found that almost half had at least one foodborne disease-causing organism, such as E. coli.
S. aureus, a bacterium largely known to cause disease in humans, was found more often in towels from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children, according to the study.
The food poisoning bacteria, which can be fatal for the elderly or the infirm, were more prevalent among families that had non-vegetarian diets. Out of the 49 samples which were positive for bacterial growth, 36.7 per cent grew coliforms, 36.7 per cent Enterococcus spp and 14.3 per cent S aureus.
According to researchers, E. coli growth was more likely to be found on damp towels and on towels used for multiple purposes, such as drying dishes and cleaning counters.
"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen", said Dr. Biranjia-Hurdoyal, lead author on the study.
"But staph being "[on] the towel isn't as concerning as [it being in] food", an expert tells Live Science, noting researchers failed to find the types of bacteria typically associated with foodborne illnesses, like salmonella and O157:H7, a particularly harmful strain of E. coli.
The risk of having coliforms (Escherichia coli) was higher from humid towels than the dried ones, from multipurpose towels than single-use ones and from families on non-vegetarian diets.
"Furthermore, reusing contaminated towels to wipe hands or other surfaces can easily lead to cross-contamination, and therefore should not be reused throughout meal preparation, since they too can contribute to contamination of hands, surfaces or other food products", Sauer said.
These bacteria also tend to grow faster in warm, damp environments such as kitchen sponges, towels and drains. That means changing and washing tea towels regularly, and using disposable cloths or paper towels for cleaning, BBC reports. "If you have multiple towels, just throw one in the washer and get a new one", Dawson said.