Professional Opinion: Is double dipping actually unsafe?

rdamgen@islandpacket.comJune 30, 2014 

Roxanne Davis-Cote is a clinical nutrition manager at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

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This week, Roxanne Davis-Cote, a clinical nutrition manager at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, discusses the dangers of double dipping and other cookout pitfalls.

Question. It's the thick of cookout season. Is it really unsafe to double dip or eat food out of a bowl after we saw someone double dip in it? Would it be OK to double dip if we're among family or should we never, ever do it? Is it safe to eat food cooked on a community charcoal grill? And how much is too much when it comes to mayonnaise-based foods like potato salad or cole slaw?

Answer. Yes, it's unsafe to double dip or eat from a bowl that someone has double dipped in. As you go to reach in for a second dip, ask yourself, "Did the last person who ate from this plate wash their hands before they double dipped? Do they have, or have they recently had any kind of illness?" If you don't know the answers to these questions, it is best to avoid double dipping.

Consistent hand washing is the number one way to decrease the transmission of illness, but unfortunately it is not done enough, especially outside at picnics and parks as there often aren't easily accessible hand washing stations. If you don't know for sure, it's better to steer clear.

Regarding single-family double dipping, first consider how easily habits are formed in the comfort of our own home. If we get in the habit of double dipping at home, it is likely we will do it outside of the home as well, again, increasing risk of transmitting or receiving potential illness. Not to mention, we adults are examples for our children. If they see us double dipping or doing other unhealthy behaviors, they will mimic them.

Community grills should be safe as long as the grill is well heated and cleaned (as one would do when cooking at home) before placing food on it. The heating and cleaning process should kill any leftover bacteria that could be festering. It is important, however, to pay attention to the temperature of the food you are cooking. Food-borne illness is a real danger, and cookouts and picnics are a great place for it, as the food is out in the heat often for more than two hours. When grilling meats, cook hamburgers to internal temperature of 160 degrees Farenheit and any chicken product to 165 degrees Farenheit to minimize risk of food-borne illness.

Mayonnaise-based foods like potato salad and coleslaw are good choices in moderation. Mayonnaise is high in fat, sodium and calories, however it also tastes really good with vegetables/potatoes, etc. When eating these salads, aim for a serving size that is less than a quarter of the plate and choose one of these salads, not all of them. Fill another quarter of the plate with three to four ounces of grilled meat and complete the plate by filling the other half with fresh veggies, watermelon, fresh fruit, etc. This way you get to have the yummy salads while also enjoying the healthier options available.

Let's all have a safe, satisfying and healthy summer.

Follow reporter Rachel Damgen at twitter.com/IPBG_Rachel.

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