Pickles - My brother in law has a fit if you touch the pickles with your hands to replace them in the jar. He claims if they come in contact with you it will cause the whole jar to spoil.

  • That tale has been going around for centuries. It also has other forms regarding making pickles and menstrual cycle. Or even tomatoes. Feel free to invite him to 21st century. All that being said, it's proper etiquette to use a utensil to portion shared food.
    – MandoMando
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 15:42
  • Yes, I've heard this and always suspected it was a needless extrapolation of keeping the process of handling canning jars somewhat sterile. Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 22:28
  • 2
    This isn't a question. Are you looking for help or did you just feel like sharing this? Are you asking whether or not the claim is true? Or how to serve them without using your hands? Or something else?
    – Aaronut
    Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 1:13
  • 1
    Closing this since there's been no revision; there is a good answer information-wise, but since it's not clear what the question is actually asking, the answer may or may not be relevant. Feel free to edit this with a direct question if you'd like it reopened.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 2:32

2 Answers 2


No, this is nonsense.

Bacteria are everywhere, crawling over all of your food. This is why food spoils - quickly outside of the fridge, within a few days in the fridge. Touching food with your fingers should not introduce any new bacteria species, except in some extreme cases (e.g. if you have been handling soil and not washed them well, or if you have a cold and have been keeping your hand in front of your mouth when coughing).

The reason pickles can hold for such a long time is that the brine is highly salty and acidic. Bacteria cannot survive in these conditions. If your fingers introduce new bacteria, they will die within a few hours. Neither the touched pickle nor the rest of the jar will spoil.

This being said, the skin on your fingers can have lots of stuff on it which is not especially appetizing. There is no specific food-safety concern in eating touched pickles, but many will find it gross. So while touching isn't dangerous, most of your co-eaters will probably still insist on the pickles being handled with normal utensils.


Vinegar is a disinfectant. And in fact it is used as a preservative.

Put the pickles in a bowl, with several toothpicks, so that each one touches only their own. Only for not doing discussions. There are also commercially metal toothpick, decorated and imaginative, for the table.

But then kindly point out to him that no one knows what happens in the kitchen. Almost everything is cooked with hands, which of course are washed. But if he sits down at your table and think that you've cooked everything with pliers, explain to him that he's wrong. The real cooks use their hands for almost everything.

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