Double trouble: double dips spread bacteria, study says

(U-WIRE) Everyone has committed this crime, whether in the privacy of our own homes or at a social event.

Double dipping transfers 50 to 100 bacteria each time a dip is made, according to a recent Clemson University study. The danger of the bacteria is undetermined.

“Do I think that double dipping is a wild idea? Absolutely not,” said Shelley Haffner, a nurse manager for infection control. “And I don’t know how much it’s happening, but I would strongly recommend against double dipping.”

The study defines double dipping as “the re-dipping of a chip that has already been bitten off.”

“With the amount of flu that we see going around, I wouldn’t take anything from any open container,” Haffner said.

Since students have returned for the spring semester, Penn State, for example, reported a “marked upturn” in influenza, with as many as 300 cases diagnosed.

In the study, participants took a bite of a wheat cracker and dipped the cracker for three seconds into about a tablespoon of a test dip. Then they repeated the procedure with new crackers and counted the number of aerobic bacteria in the remaining dip, according to the study. Three to six double dips transmitted about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the leftover dip, the study showed.

The six test dips included sterile water with three different degrees of acidity, a commercial salsa, a cheese dip and a chocolate syrup. More acidic water samples had fewer bacteria. The acidic salsa, however, picked up more initial bacteria than the cheese or chocolate because it was runny, according to the study.

On a college student’s budget, throwing food away often isn’t an option, David Ericson (junior-elementary education) said.

“I probably wouldn’t throw it out if it’s a brand new thing,” Ericson said. “If it’s just my friends, you don’t really think about it, even though that’s just as bad as if it was a complete stranger.”

Some students view double dipping as only a minor offense.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal unless they’re grossly sick, especially with everything you do in a day,” Matt Feeney (freshman-division of undergraduate studies) said.

Students should be wary of where bacteria can linger, Haffner said.

“The popular game at parties — beer pong — that’s another one that I think can go right in there with the double dipping as far as the things you shouldn’t do,” she said.

Penn State Food Services performs measures to ensure that dining commons food is germ-free, said Lisa Wandel, associate director of Food Services.

Items such as pre-portioned peanut butter packets, though more costly than tubs, lessen the likelihood of double dipping, she said. All food handlers in the dining commons are required to wear plastic gloves, she added.

“Nothing freaks me out more than going to a restaurant and seeing them touch my bun with bare hands,” she said.

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