Let’s Settle This: Does Double-Dipping Get You Sick?

Sometimes you realize that you want a little more salsa on the second half of your chip, but should you go back for more?

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If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you’ll clearly remember the 1993 episode where George Costanza was called out for double-dipping. His fellow partygoer told him that his double-dipping was like putting his whole mouth in the dip. (Gross!) Looking at it that way makes double-dipping a definite don’t. Still, many of us see no harm in hitting that dip more than once with the same chip, especially when, say, we’re sharing a bowl of guac with only one dinner companion. But do you transmit or contract germs by sticking a chip in salsa or that chopped fruit in that fondue more than once?

In a study conducted at Clemson University and published in the Journal of Food Safety researchers analyzed bacterial contamination before and after a person double dipped. They found that after someone took a bite from a chip and then dipped it again, the bacterial counts in the dip did indeed increase. Also, interesting to note is that the level of contamination varied based on the type of dip; Salsa had higher counts of bacteria after double-dipping compared to cheese or chocolate dips.

While the study didn’t look at the types of bacteria that could be transferred, it did noted that double-dipping three to six times could transfer 10,000 bacteria from one person to the next. Yuck! Before you ban yourself from having party dips ever again, the good news is the human mouth contains a plethora of good bacteria that can kill a lot of the germs or bad bacteria that make it into that space. Even better, many bacteria don’t tend to live long once outside of our bodies. (For the extra-germ conscious, don’t forgot to clean these germ-ridden surfaces, all of which are dirtier than a toilet seat.)

To be on the safe, side try these tips from Michigan State University Extension to cut down on double-dipping germs:

  • Instead of using a community dip bowl, make sure each attendee has his or her own plates and bowls.
  • Serve bite size food items. Cut fruit, veggies, and cheeses for individual servings.
  • Instead of putting out a huge vat out of dip, refill a smaller dish more often.
  • If you see someone committing double dipping gently hand them a plate and ask them to use it.
  • Consider rescheduling the party if you or any member of your household is under the weather.

MORE: How Bad Is It to Reuse a Tissue?

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