What does Seinfeld, Costanza, and double dipping chips have to do with germs? Plenty! The Seinfeld show opened people’s eyes to how this bad habit spreads germs.
Harold McGee (The New York Times’ “The Curious Cook”) writes that Peter Mehlman, a veteran Seinfeld writer, was at a party where someone double dipped and another partygoer “flipped out.” Peter knew it would wind up as a Seinfeld show. In the resulting episode, George Costanza double dips his chip into the dip and is confronted by his girlfriend’s brother. We’ve all seen people doing it — at parties, potlucks, or even in our home kitchens. With summer holidays right around the corner, here’s a quick primer on double dipping food and germs.
Double Dipping and Germs
After seeing the Seinfeld episode, Professor Paul, a food scientist at Clemson University, proposed a study of double dipping and germs. The Food Science and Human Nutrition Department of the Clemson University in South Carolina studied the effects of double dipping crackers into various dips and published the findings in the Journal of Food Safety (2009, vol. 29).
The scientists used three experiments to ascertain the spread of germs from this practice. In the first and second experiments, participants used sterilized water for a dip. The result was a higher bacterial count in the water used with the bitten crackers. In the second experiment, they used sterile waters with varying acidity.
The third experiment was more realistic. The three dips were salsa, cheese, and chocolate sauce. Initially the salsa had more germs than the cheese and chocolate; but, interestingly, “the salsa had lower levels of bacteria after 2 h (ours) of hold time at room temperature. Three experiments determined that the bacterial population of food dips increased due to the practice of “double-dipping,” and that dip type can influence the dip’s bacterial population.” (http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=21123607 )
Whose Saliva Is In the Dip?
Professor Paul Dawson told The New York Times writer Harold McGee: “The way I would put it is, 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.” Hmm, food for thought…
Bee Wilson, of the Telegraph, sums it up: “Double-dipping – either three or six times – transferred, on average, 10,000 bacteria from mouth to dip. It would take only a few renegade double-dippers at a party to turn an appetizing bowl of hummus or tzatziki into a molecular weapon.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3343978/The-kitchen-thinker-to-dip-or-not-to-dip.html
Double Dipping and Television — Again
Double dipping has made another television appearance but, unfortunately, this wasn’t fiction. On the Food Network show Chopped, Chris Burke dipped into his cooking pot with the stirring spoon, tasted his food, then put the spoon back into the pot. Incredibly, he did this in two different cooking sessions. What about the cook who wants to taste their creations to correct the seasonings? Most don’t think about spreading germs while cooking, but double dipping into the cooking pot is no better than double dipping crackers at a buffet. Good chefs have a tasting spoon. This spoon isn’t dipped into the pot; use the pot’s spoon to put a little food on the tasting spoon. This way the cook’s spoon isn’t put in the pot again — and there isn’t a sink full of spoons at the end of the cooking session.
Discourage the Double Dipper
Not everyone is aware that double dipping spreads germs. Don’t accuse someone of having the manners of a baboon, but don’t ignore double dippers either. Point out that with germs like the swine flu bug running rampant, double dipping isn’t acceptable.
The University of Minnesota has strict rules about potlucks: “Prevent ‘double dipping’ by ensuring that there is a spoon available for each dip at all times.” http://www.sua.umn.edu/groups/forms/potluck-event.pdf This is good advice to anyone holding a potluck, including family gatherings.
Encourage people to put some salsa or dip on a plate then dip into their personal “stash.” Another technique, which isn’t as sanitary, but better than double dipping, is to turn your dipper around and use the unbitten end for the second dip.
“Pet peeves? I don’t like double dipping. I can’t stand double dipping. Don’t bite off something or drink something and then pass it along. Or eat some food and offer me some after you’ve ate it. Don’t do that. That’s nasty.” — Visanthe Shaincoe (former Minnesota Viking) to Bob Sansevere (http://www.purplepride.org/forums/index.php?topic=46966.msg817976#msg817976 )
http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=21123607 (link to Journal of Food Safety (2009, vol. 29) report)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3343978/The-kitchen-thinker-to-dip-or-not-to-dip.html very good explanation of the Clemson University study
http://www.tesh.com/ittrium/visit?path=A1xc797x1y1xa5x1x76y1x242bx1x9by1x2430x1y5x194eex5x1 John Tesh’s website