Saint Louis University

Donna Duberg, SLU germ expert,offers simples rules of
serving food that avoids the spread of germs.

ST. LOUIS — If you choose your menu carefully, you can increase the chance that your Super Bowl party on Sunday stays in the germ-free zone, says Donna Duberg, a germ expert at Saint Louis University.

One of the big keys, says Duberg, assistant professor of clinical lab science, is preventing your guests from double-dipping - or plunging the chip or vegetable that they've taken a bite from back into the common bowl of dip that everyone else uses.

"Double dipping is like getting a lick of someone else's saliva," Duberg says. "It spreads bacteria."

Follow Duberg's simple rules of serving to avoid spreading germs:

  • Rethink your menu: The first step to avoid double-dipping is to pick food items that come in their own individual packages. "Guests can have their own packets of chips or even boxed food items that have their own little packets of sauces," Duberg said.
  • Individual dips: Studies show that one double-dip can transfer about 10,000 bacteria from the eater to the remaining dip. But people love their dip! Duberg urges hosts to consider setting out individual bowls, dishes and even spoons so guests can transfer a portion of dip that only they use and double-dip without spreading germs.
  • More salsa: The multiplication of bacteria depends a lot on the sauces being served. Duberg says since salsa is more acidic, the bacteria won't grow as quickly as it will in thicker sauces such as sour cream and mayonnaise. "These organisms are doubling about every 20 to 30 minutes, especially when you leave out the dish for several hours," she said.
  • Substitute the dip: Duberg says instead of putting out a queso dip, use its ingredients to make a macaroni dish that can be kept hot in a crock-pot. Serve items with the "sauce" already on them, such as, buffalo wings and cocktail sausages in BBQ sauce.
  • Keep hot, hot and cold, cold: "The rule of thumb when preparing food ahead of time, is that hot dishes need to be cooked at their appropriate temperature but kept hot (135-140 degrees Fahrenheit) while on the buffet table; cold items should be stored at less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit until serving and only left out for about two hours," she said.
  • Don't taste and stir: Super Bowl chefs, if you're cooking up a big feast for a number of people for the party on Sunday, be careful about tasting the food while cooking. "Pour the item from your stirring spoon into a tasting spoon and then taste it. Your stirring spoon should not touch anyone's mouth," Duberg said.