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Bacteria in Your Killer Party Dip

Is norovirus the secret ingredient?

If you want to ruin a party, say loudly, so all the guests can hear, “Did you read the story about people getting herpes from dip?” And then eat some dip--slowly. Unless you’re attending a herpes support group mixer, this is a guaranteed buzzkill.

Of course, we’re talking about herpes simplex aka the oral kind, not the “down there” kind of herpes. But, for comedic effect, it’s best not distinguish.

However, getting a cold sore from dip--which is a real possibility-- is still pretty disgusting and you have those damn double dipping party goers to blame.

A report on the British television show Food Unwrapped revealed organisms in saliva can transfer bacteria to your Knorr’s Vegetable dip. And--here’s the really gaggy part--the bacteria will multiply during the festivities.

So, each time a rude guest puts his (or her) half-eaten chip back into the dip, norovirus, streptococcus or herpes simplex have a party of their own and wait for their next victim.

This may explain why, in the ‘70’s--during the Lipton Onion Soup dip craze--I had strep throat at least once a year.

This would also explain why my husband once said to a woman who was an obvious double dipper, “If you double dip, I will break your fingers.” At the time, I wanted to kill him. Now, I realize he may have saved my life--or, at least kept me from getting strep throat again.

Party Etiquette

This wasn’t the first time my husband has pointed out food safety issues at a gathering. He is, by no means, a germaphobe. But, if you’ve ever had food poisoning, you spend the rest of your life trying to never get food poisoning again.

However, if you express concern over food prep at a party, you are immediately labeled a major a-hole. Point out that you shouldn’t put cooked burgers back on the same plate that, minutes earlier, carried raw burgers and the host will look at you like you’re the turd in the punchbowl. (If you see a turd in the punchbowl, do not drink the punch.)

USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture tries their best to educate Americans on basic food safety. Their goal is to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Clean—Wash hands and surfaces often.

Separate—Don't cross-contaminate.

Cook—Cook to proper temperatures, checking with a food thermometer.

Chill—Refrigerate promptly.

These guidelines don’t seem too difficult to follow. Yet, each summer, hundreds of pounds of potato salad are left out in the blazing sun for hours at backyard BBQ’s all across this nation.

And some of those guests wake up at 3 AM saying, “I don’t feel so good.” And then the heavens open up.

The Ghost of Food Poisoning Past

I’ve had food poisoning twice in my adult life and I pray I never get it again.

The first time, it was early in our marriage and my husband and I got food poisoning at the same time. We only had one bathroom in our small apartment. After several hours of hell in a confined space, we had seen it all and done it all. We no longer had secrets--or pride--or any remaining bodily fluids.

The second time, was after a dinner party at a friend’s house. Only the women got food poisoning so I assume it was from the salad.

That was the night my husband coined the term “multi-port ejection.” (Don’t ask me to explain why…use your imagination.) After hours of me yelling, “There can’t be anything left” and discovering there was indeed plenty left, my husband appeared with a glass of baking soda and water.

It is important to note that my husband is the son of an old-school nurse. The kind of nurse who cures everything--including the dog--with whiskey or whatever has been in the back of the medicine cabinet for decades. The baking soda and water, he told me, was to make me vomit. A curious fix for somebody who spent the whole night doing just that (among other things.)

While the other dinner party couple's husband took his sick wife to the emergency room, mine was giving me Arm and Hammer. But, it worked. His mother would have been proud.

Years later, my husband got food poisoning--and I didn’t. At one point, he moaned, “I’m dying!!!” I said, “Are you really dying or do you just think you’re dying?”

My practicality--and dismissal of his feelings--would have made my mother proud.

Party Etiquette: Part II

So, to avoid the above scenarios, what should you do to avoid getting ill at a party without insulting your host?

Over the years, I have adopted the “every man for himself” philosophy of party going. If I see unsafe food practices, I keep my mouth shut literally and figuratively.

In all fairness, entertaining can be difficult and stressful so I feel for the host who loses track of time or under-cooks the burgers because there are so many people to feed. But, I have no sympathy for the host who gets upset when I put my burger back on the grill or suggests the dip should be tossed because there’s a double dipper in the room.

This summer, when you’re at a pool party or a picnic, keep an eye on the food you’re about to eat. A little bit of caution can save you a whole lot of misery.

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