Identity and Numbers of Bacteria Present on Tabletops and in Dishcloths Used to Wipe Down Tabletops in Public Restaurants and Bars



Dishcloths used in restaurants and bars (23 restaurant cloths, 14 bar cloths) were collected, and tabletops (10 restaurants) were swabbed, to determine the occurrence of bacteria. Coliforms were isolated from 89.2% of dishcloths and 70% of tabletops. Escherichia coli was isolated from 54.1% of dishcloths and 20% of tabletops. The numbers of heterotrophic plate count bacteria (HPC) and coliforms were significantly higher in bars than in restaurants. The levels of HPC found in dishcloths were 25-fold and coliforms were 60- to 120-fold lower than the levels found in home dishcloths reported in previous studies. The numbers recovered from restaurant tabletops were also lower than those from household kitchen countertops. The most commonly isolated genera from dishcloths in restaurants and bars differed from those in homes. The numbers found for heterotrophic plate count bacteria (HPC) on restaurant tabletops were 45-fold greater after cleaning than prior to cleaning. There were also a 19-fold greater number of coliforms and twice as many E. coli. Therefore, although the mandatory use of sanitizers in restaurants and bars may have reduced contamination levels and caused a shift in the microbial populations present in food service establishments, the implication of dishcloths in contamination of tabletops through cleaning suggests that current monitoring of linen sanitation solutions might be inadequate.


M. Susana Yepiz-Gomez, Kelly R. Bright, and Charles P. Gerba

The University of Arizona, Dept. of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA


Food Protection Trends – November 2006