Washing with Dipped Foods

In addition to Netilat Yadaim for bread, the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 158:4) rules that whenever one eats food dipped into or wet by certain liquids, one must wash one’s hands without a blessing. These liquids are wine, honey, oil, milk, dew, blood (such as fish blood, which the Torah allows, but is prohibited because ofMarit Ayin, ie. how it will be perceived) and water, because these liquids have the capacity to transmitting impurity. The Rama (ibid.) goes further and says that only if the tip of the food is being dipped and one’s hands will remain dry, one still must wash. Even though the laws of ritual purity have been suspended, there is still a virtue of eating food in a state of holiness. As such, one who eats a wet apple, for example, would need to wash prior to eating it. Additionally, this is why one washes one’s hands without a blessing for the Karpas segment of the Seder, since it involves a vegetable being dipped into a liquid.
Nevertheless some Rishonim, including the Maharam of Rothenberg, are lenient with regards to this type of washing. As well, Rabbi Shalom Messas (Shu”t Shemesh Umagen, vol. 2, § 45:3) and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach write that the custom nowadays is to be lenient. Rabbi David Ovadia (Nahagu Ha’am, Hilchot Berachot), on the other hand, writes that one may be lenient only if a segment of the food is wet but the portion that one is holding is still dry, such as dipping a tip of a cookie into tea.

Summary:  Although the Halacha is that one must wash one’s hands without a blessing when eating wet foods, there were many lenient opinions.