Is It Hip to Double-Dip?

Many of us will be firing up the grills this weekend and gathering with friends and/or family for the long Memorial Day weekend.
While the hot dogs and hamburgers (or chicken, or veggie burgers) are cooking, you’ll no doubt have an opportunity to dip some chips or crackers in some dip or salsa. And, unless you (or your compatriots) are inclined to stuff the entire chip in your mouth at once, that second bite will provide you with a dilemma: to double-dip or not?
Now, Seinfeld fans will no doubt flash back to the episode where George Costanza was caught double-dipping a tortilla chip at a wake—an act that led to an unfortunate altercation at an inappropriate time (to say the least). But the question lingers—Is it really wrong, or at least unsanitary, to double-dip?
A Scientific Answer
You’ll be happy to know that we have a scientific answer, thanks to the efforts of a group of Clemson University food science students. In their experiment, the students first dipped a Wheat Thins cracker into sterile water, then counted the bacteria in the water—fewer than 100 cells per milliliter of water.
Next, they determined the bacterial load in the mouth by using a rinse—are you read for this? A whopping 1 million cells per milliliter.
Finally, they took a bite of a Wheat Thins cracker, dipped that into the sterile water, and counted the bacteria. After that bite, they found, on average, 3,000-plus cells of bacteria per milliliter of water.
It Gets Worse
But wait—it gets worse. The students counted the bacteria immediately. At parties, dip typically sits out for hours. Not only allowing time for bacteria to grow, but also—if the dip is allowed to warm—for them to grow faster.
Now, even if those readings gross you out, you probably don’t need to worry—and, according to the Clemson researchers, most bacteria are actually “good bacteria.’
On the other hand, if your guests are sniffling, sneezing, or otherwise exhibiting unwell behavior—well, you might want to keep an eye on their dipping.