Cast your mind back to Sunday, when you crowded around the television with your best buds to watch a great game of football. Now cast your mind back to the eating habits of your friends. Were there any double dippers in your crew? If so, you might be interested in a new study by Clemson University researchers that suggests that double dipping can transfer as much as 10,000 bacteria from the offending eaters mouth to the otherwise innocent dip (and, if you imbibe, your mouth!)
For the study, which will be published later this year in the Journal of Food Safety, researchers instructed nine student volunteers to take a bite of a cracker and then re-dip the remaining portion for three seconds into a tablespoon of test dip. Test dips included sterile water with three different degrees of acidity (appetizing, huh?), a commercial salsa, a cheese dip, and chocolate syrup. The students were instructed to repeat the process with new crackers until they had conducted either three or six double dips per dip sample.
Based on an analysis of the remaining dip, the researchers determined that double dipping in a cup of dip transfers at least 50 to 100 bacteria from one mouth to another (ewwww!), with repeated double dipping transferring as much as 10,000 bacteria (double ewww!) The researchers note, however, that they only tested for anaerobic bacteria (largely because aerobic bacteria are difficult to culture and viruses evolve too rapidly), so figures could be even higher (uhhh…triple ewww?)
According to researchers, bacteria counts varied quite significantly by dip, with acidic varieties logging slightly lower bacteria counts than more alkaline varieties and also experiencing a decline in bacteria counts over time. In addition, the thickness of the dip also appeared to have some bearing on bacteria count, with thicker dips sticking better to the chip and leaving less behind in the bowl. In other words, while salsa has acidity in its corner, it’s also one of the more runny dips, resulting in it having a higher bacteria count than the cheese or the chocolate.
Although the researchers concede that double-dipping is not likely to become the next big public health threat, the study’s lead author suggests that “before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here? Because you don’t know who might be double dipping and those who do are sharing their saliva with you.”
Our advice? If you can’t keep an eagle eye on the dip bowl, cut your veggies small enough that no one feels the need to double dip. Or, if you know everyone’s going to be doing some double dipping, make sure your choosing friends you wouldn’t mind locking lips with!!