Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nutrition in the News: Double Dippers, Touch Screens

Some interesting nutrition articles in the news this week.  Last week we talked about avoiding sick days and how healthier habits can prevent getting sick this winter.  Well, here are some other habits to think about this week and this winter season.  

Touch screens and bacteria

Who doesn’t like to order food at those convenient touch screens?  So many fast food restaurants are adding these touch screens.  You can walk up to the screen, order what you want and your order begins to be processed.  Usually no line waiting to use the touch screen.  However, before you take your first bite into the food you ordered this way, you may want to wash your hands.  Or, use the handy hand sanitizer I recommended you take with you wherever you go.  

Researchers in London swabbed touch screen kiosks at eight different restaurants in the United Kingdom.  Unfortunately, they found bacteria on every kiosk.  A wide assortment of bacteria including Staphylococcus which is contagious and can cause illness.  They also found Enterococcus faecalis which causes infections.  Other germs were also found that can cause respiratory infections.   Not surprising really that one can pick up bacteria from touch screens as throughout the day you can also pick up bacteria from door knobs, elevator buttons, railings, shopping carts. 
Although the study was done in London, a repeat study in the U.S. would probably have similar findings.  So, order at the touch screen but before you chow down on your food, either wash your hands or use that hand sanitizer.
Keep handy when eating out
Double-Dipping and Food Safety

A pet peeve of many people is double-dipping.  Who hasn’t gone out to eat with a group or been at a party and there is the ONE person who doubles dips.  They take the chip, dip it into the salsa, bite it and then with the same chip they go back into the salsa bowl for another dip.  I have known people who order their own individual salsa or dip so that others don’t double dip and contaminate their dip.  My daughter calls the dipping bowl the “community trough”.  I wasn’t surprised that some researchers actually studied those “double-dippers”.  

What was the Double Dip study?  

Undergraduate researchers at Clemson University did a series of experiments on double-dipping.  Their goal was to find out if double dipping contaminated the dip with bacteria?  They went a bit farther and tested different types of dips to find if things like acidity of the dip affected bacterial contamination.  The dips in the experiment included hot salsa, Hershey’s syrup, and Cheddar Cheese Dip.  

What did the Double-Dip study find?  

No Double-Dipping:  not surprising, if you keep those double dippers away from your dip, the researchers found no detectable bacteria.  

Double-Dippers – Yep, those double-dippers are sharing more than dip as they are adding some bacteria to the dip.  “Once subjected to double-dipping, the salsa took on about five times more bacteria… than the chocolate and cheese dips.”   Interesting, if the salsa was left out for two hours the bacterial content was about the same in all three dips.  

Why the difference?  Salsa is not as thick so more of the salsa touches the cracker or chip so dip into the salsa and more of it falls back into the dipping bowl.  But when the salsa sits out for awhile the acidity of the salsa destroys some of the double-dippers bacteria.  

So, if you are going to parties this holiday season, or are going out with a group of friends or relatives, stay clear of those double-dippers.  If you like to dip, maybe ordering your own dipping bowl of salsa or other dip would be a good idea.  You can also see their video on The Hazards of Double Dipping.  Their recommendation:  “Don’t be a Double Dipper.” 

A few more ideas to try to stay healthy this winter.  Keep the hand sanitizer handy when ordering from touch screen kiosks.  And watch out for those double-dippers at parties and restaurants.  

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