Many people of all ages agree: Food, when dropped on the floor, remains “good” for five seconds.
Standard procedure is to yell “FIVE-SECOND RULE!’ before picking up what is now floor food and shoving it into your mouth before you have time to think about it.
I see you. I know what you did.
While you won’t be on the receiving end of any judgement from me – milk aside, some food is worth crying over when it makes the journey to the ground – researchers really want you to take a minute to rethink your choices.
The five-second rule is such a cultural phenomenon, spanning continents, that scientists at Rutgers University spent two whole years testing the theory.
According to SFGate, they tested an extensive range of foods dropped on stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood, and carpet to see just how much gunk they picked up, and how long it took for the gunk to merge with the food.
The food, which included cut watermelon, bread, buttered bread, and strawberry gummy candy was dropped from a height of five inches onto these surfaces which were treated with the bacterium that you’ll find on a standard floor.
The researchers tested four contact times — less than one second, five seconds, 30, and 300 seconds. A total of 128 possible combinations of bacterial preparation, surface, food, and seconds were replicated 20 times each, yielding 2 560 measurements.
Here’s what they found…
First, the five-second rule isn’t entirely inaccurate because the less time food spends on the ground, the less likely it is to pick up a large number of bacteria.
However, Professor Donald W. Schaffner, a food microbiologist at Rutgers who ran the study, says that it proved that no matter how fast you pick up food that falls on the floor, you will pick up bacteria with it, with ‘wet’ foods like watermelon picking things up more easily, which is both gross and potentially dangerous.
I’ve seen people ‘five-second-rule’ food dropped on pavements.
If you’re wondering how the urban myth came about, it apparently started with Genghis Khan, who decided food was safe to eat even after five hours on the floor.
While we’ve knocked that down considerably over the last 800 years, it’s still not great to think about the fact that we’re employing similar methods to a man who killed as many as 40 million people.
In short, best to transfer the food on the floor to the bin – or not.
If you want to risk eating it despite the facts, that’s your business.
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