No Double Dipping

Take some and pass it down.

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH A young man rushes to the restaurant restroom. The only audible splashing is against the urinal. Zipping his trousers while bumping the exit door, he slides into the booth next to his unsuspecting blonde. Just in time to share a piping hot order of French fries! Bon appétit.

A sports bar keeps bowls of peanuts on the counter to stimulate patrons’ thirst. The more beer they drink, the more they empty their bladders. By late evening, how many communal peanuts offer more in their golden coating than salt and oil.


Communal chips and salsa. Love ’em or leave ’em.

You order a round of guacamole, salsa and chips for sharing with a group of friends. In a conscientious hygienic effort, you pass around a bottle of sanitizing gel. The server prepares fresh guacamole table-side before salivating guests. With the air wafting of isopropyl alcohol, everyone digs in to the appetizer. Halfway into the guacamole, the dip-bite-dip sequence is visible across the table. You recall no one leaving for the restroom, but perform a quick head count as confirmation. Are you safe from contamination?

The Science of Double Dipping

Double dipping is the introduction of personal germs into a communal food reservoir. It doesn’t matter whether the conduit is a chip, spoon, chopstick or finger. In a research study, Clemson University food safety professor Paul Dawson, et al. dipped crackers into liquid and viscous solutions. This includes water, acidic water, salsa, cheese dip, and chocolate dip. Five thousand 5000 bacteria per milliliter (PML) transfer through plain water. Acidic water (pH of 6.0) transfers about 3800 bacteria PML. More bacteria sticks to the chip when double dipping thick consistencies like guacamole or sour cream. Bacteria is most likely to disperse throughout the bowl with thinner dips like salsa.

Each double dipper contributes to the bacteria accumulation. What types of bacteria are we sharing? A healthy mouth contains Streptococcus, Prevotella, Veillonella, and many others. Someone with a common cold or mononucleosis can bring more to the party.

About 100 to 200 species thrive in human oral cavities. With good oral hygiene each tooth surface can host 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria that make up our microbium and aid in digestion. Less hygienic mouths mouths carry 100 million to 1 billion bacteria per tooth. —Oral ecology

Etiquette dictates that there be a serving spoon for each dish. This encourages diners to scoop the dip onto their plates for personal use and to remain A Bit More Healthy. Are you a double dipper, compulsive etiquette enforcer, or communal-dip avoider?

This 380-word article passes with favorable readability by the Hemingway Editor.

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Tags: buffet, definition, dining, etiquette, food safety, germs, good maners