Makin' the Case: ‘5 Second Rule’ is no myth

By Philip Case, Published:

Remember that brown ‘n’ serve roll you dropped from the breadbasket, scooped up and served?

How about that fried chicken leg that seemed to jump from the platter and land on the floor? Did it go on a plate destined for the table or did you toss it in the can?

Perhaps you’ve heard of “The Five Second Rule” that’s long held if dropped food is picked up within five seconds of hitting the floor there is little to no risk of contamination.

Old wives’ tale? Myth of the wishful?

Turns out researchers at Aston University in England, according to Fox News, have now demonstrated the rule may be more than just a myth.

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, researchers dropped various pieces of food — including toast, pasta, ham, a sticky dessert and dried fruit — on the floor and allowed it to remain there for three to 30 seconds. Various floor surfaces were tested including carpet, laminate and tile.  

Researchers then analyzed the dropped food to determine whether certain strains of bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus had been transferred from the floor.

Here’s what they discovered, just to put your mind at ease:

 The faster a person picks up dropped food, the safer it will be to eat — provided he or she reacts within five seconds of dropping the food. 

Hence The Five Second Rule.

When various flooring surfaces were tested — carpet, tile and laminate — rather surprisingly carpet emerged as the safer surface for dropped foods. Moist foods that were left on the floor for more than five seconds were most susceptible to becoming contaminated with bacteria.

“Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk, as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time,” said Anthony Hilton, a professor of microbiology at Aston. “However, the findings of this study will bring some relief to those who have been employing the rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth.”

The study also concluded  women are more likely to follow The Five Second rule compared to men.

“Our study showed that a surprisingly large majority of people are happy to consume dropped food, with women the most likely to do so,” Hilton said.

Got something on your mind? Let me hear from you (pcase@state-journal.com or 502-227-4556) and make your case.

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