Herpes From 'Double Dipping' is an Outbreak of Terrible Science

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When it comes to double dipping at parties there are two disparate belief systems:

1. Some people think nothing of sticking their chips, carrots, etc., into a dip, taking a bite, and then dipping the uneaten piece back into the bowl.

2. Some people want to fire a bazooka into the heads of those who do so.

This issue is now newsworthy and there is no middle ground. So it is only natural that the press completely screwed up the science.

But it's hard to blame them because the "information" that spawned these stories came from a cooking show on Britain's Channel 4 during which microbiologists and a "food safety expert" demonstrated how bacteria could grow in three different dips: sour cream, hummus, and taramasalata (whatever the hell this is, it contains the letter A five times. Impressive).

This story will never reconcile the double dippers and bazooka firers (1), and it won't do much to educate the public either. The science is god-awful. Here are some examples.

From The Daily Mail:

  • "The viruses can multiply quickly in warm conditions, making them hotbeds of contamination."

Everything here is correct except for all of it. Unlike bacteria, viruses do not grow in dip or in any other food. They are obligate parasites, which means that they grow only within the host cells they infect.

  • Food safety expert Jonathan France also revealed that if someone has a virus such as norovirus, streptococcus (???), or herpes simplex, you may catch their infection even if only a small amount of their saliva has contaminated a party dip.

If Jonathan France is a food safety expert, then I'm Betty White (2). Streptococcus is NOT a virus. It is a bacterium. I bet Betty knows this.

Original photo: Wikipedia

And if someone at the party has norovirus there's a pretty good chance you're going to get it anyhow. A kiss, handshake or just touching a surface will do the job. Norovirus is the most contagious virus in the world. (See Can You Dodge The 'Stomach Flu?': A Look At 'Expert' Advice )

From Wellandgood.com:

  • "To avoid sending your guests home with unexpected “gifts” after your next gathering, consider adopting a one-dip-only policy."

Then you better have a "one-joint-only policy." How many confirmed cases of oral herpes transmission (3) from party dips are there? I'm estimating zero. But if people are really so concerned about catching the virus (4) then what better way to do so then by passing a doobie around? And said doobie is placed between the lips - just about the perfect place to become infected. 

  • "Another way to avoid bacteria-loaded dips? Enjoying them all by yourself, like this immune-boosting beet hummus and this mint guac."

Two words. One of them is bull.

So stop worrying. There is no real evidence that party dips are going to give you oral herpes. But if you find the practice of double dipping to be objectionable, if only based on the ickiness factor, there's always the bazooka.

Original photo: Faithtap.com


(1) I'm firmly in the bazooka camp. Would a member of the double dipper camp like it if I blew my nose into the taramasalata?  I think not.

(2) Warning to men who are online daters: Do not be surprised if the "45-year old woman" you are going to meet for drinks looks just like Betty White. Or her mother. This happens roughly 100% of the time. Men are not so innocent either. They lie about their age AND height ?!?!? Like they're having a "short day" and will be back to normal tomorrow?

(3) Married men - if you are doing some recreational sleazing around and end up with a case of genital herpes I suggest that you do not use the hummus as an excuse. Not only would this would this require that you engage in some unspeakably poor dining etiquette, but the transmission of HSV-2 via party dip is notably absent in the medical literature. 

(4) You probably have it already. 65% of the population of the US has antibodies to HSV-1