Can "Double-Dipping" Food Spread Disease? Here's Why We Should All Be Grossed Out

Can "Double-Dipping" Food Spread Disease? Here's Why We Should All Be Grossed Out
Source: AP
Source: AP

Some people hate when their friends do it. Some people don't mind. The debate on whether you should or should not "double-dip" your chips, or any food item, into a sauce or dip twice, has raged ever since one particular episode of Seinfeld, where George Costanza is accused of double-dipping the same chip. 

"Did you just double dip that chip? You dipped the chip, you took a bite, and you dipped again," the accuser says in the episode. "That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip."

Read more: Italy Is Passing a Law to Make Supermarkets Donate All Their Unsold Food

Source: YouTube

It turns out that the accuser of the "double-dip" in the episode might not be completely wrong. A group of students from Clemson University in South Carolina put together a series of experiments to test for the transferal of bacteria. The undergraduates found that the practice of double dipping actually does transfer bacteria to another person.

The experiment used wheat crackers and three different dips: salsa, cheese dip, and chocolate syrup. The students also measured how much bacteria could transfer from the wheat crackers to a cup of water.

"We found that in the absence of double-dipping, our foods had no detectable bacteria present," Paul Dawson, a food microbiologist at Clemson University, wrote in The Scientific American. "Once subjected to double-dipping, the salsa took on about five times more bacteria (1,000 bacteria/ml of dip) from the bitten chip when compared to chocolate and cheese dips (150-200 bacteria/ml of dip)." 

But double-dippers don't need to worry too much. Thousands of bacteria and viruses already live in the the oral cavity, and the majority of them pose no immediate health threat. Double-dipping probably poses no major threat to public or global health, but there are some diseases that can be spread through saliva, like the influenza virus or strep throat.

"We get exposed to germs in a thousand different ways," Peter Mehlman, who wrote the Seinfeld double-dipping episode, told the New York Times in 2008, after recalling his own experience with someone admonishing him for double-dipping. "Besides, I thought the dip was enough to kill anything. It was probably one of those '60s style dips with artificial dried onion soup."

If you want to keep your mouth free of bacteria from others, the best bet might be to just eat from your own separate bowl. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Philip Lewis

Philip Lewis is a programming editor at Mic. He was previously an editorial fellow for 'The Huffington Post'. He can be reached at plewis@mic.com

MORE FROM

‘New York Times’ interview sparks latest wave of GOP frustration with Trump

The President’s “disturbing” comments on Jeff Sessions and Special Counsel Robert Mueller drew sharp rebukes from his own party.

Jordan Edwards’ mother speaks out after Monday’s indictment of the officer who killed her son

“We will not allow Jordan’s death to be another statistic.”

Trump keeps saying he wants to “let Obamacare fail.” How would that happen?

There are several ways the administration could sabotage the law, experts said.

AIDS deaths are almost half of what they were in 2005 — but experts worry Trump could reverse that

Trump's proposed budget cuts could be detrimental for those living with HIV.

OJ Simpson granted parole after nine years in prison

After serving nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery, OJ Simpson was granted parole in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

Black Lives Matter activists respond to the police shooting of Justine Damond

“Some white people don’t feel the tragedy until one of them is murdered.”

‘New York Times’ interview sparks latest wave of GOP frustration with Trump

The President’s “disturbing” comments on Jeff Sessions and Special Counsel Robert Mueller drew sharp rebukes from his own party.

Jordan Edwards’ mother speaks out after Monday’s indictment of the officer who killed her son

“We will not allow Jordan’s death to be another statistic.”

Trump keeps saying he wants to “let Obamacare fail.” How would that happen?

There are several ways the administration could sabotage the law, experts said.

AIDS deaths are almost half of what they were in 2005 — but experts worry Trump could reverse that

Trump's proposed budget cuts could be detrimental for those living with HIV.

OJ Simpson granted parole after nine years in prison

After serving nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery, OJ Simpson was granted parole in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

Black Lives Matter activists respond to the police shooting of Justine Damond

“Some white people don’t feel the tragedy until one of them is murdered.”