Double dipping dangers

Does double dipping really spread germs? Tips for keeping community food items safe and healthy.

What is double dipping you ask? For those who haveChips and salsa never seen the Seinfeld episode, double dipping is when a person takes a chip, cracker, vegetable or other food item, puts it in the dip, takes a bite, and then re-dips the same item into the dip again. In the Seinfeld episode, it is claimed that double dipping is like “putting your whole mouth in the dip,” thus contaminating it for everyone and spreading germs. But is it true that double dipping spreads germs?

It appears as though at least a couple researchers were interested in finding out the results. A study done by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Clemson University took on the challenge of proving the Seinfeld episode right or wrong. The Clemson study found that double dipping three to six times would transfer about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the remaining dip. This translates to about 50-100 bacteria from one mouth to another, in every bite. The study did not examine what species of bacteria were transferred, and did not study virus transfer.

A popular TV program called Mythbusters also tried their hand at re-enacting the episode. In their study, they used petri dishes instead of actual dips, and found that each double dip transferred five to 10 bacteria to the petri dish. Although in the end they determined that double dipping was not a reliable way to transfer bacteria, in the case of some viruses and bacteria, it only takes 10 cells to infect a human.

Both studies prove that bacteria are indeed transferred through double dipping. Michigan State University Extension recommends following these tips to keep double dippers at bay at your next party.

  • Provide individual plates or bowls for people to put their own dip on, instead of having a community dip bowl.
  • Use only bite-size food items. Many chip companies now make chips that are one-bite sized and/or scoopable. Do the same with vegetables by cutting them smaller.
  • Only put out small amounts of dip at a time, and resupply in clean containers often.
  • If you see someone double dipping kindly hand them a plate and ask them to use it.
  • If you or someone in your household has been sick in the last 24-48 hours consider canceling the party.

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