by Graham Pierrepoint
Some things just become part of everyday lore – no matter where you are in the world – and whether you’re in Delaware or Doncaster, it’s highly likely that you have your own rules for dropped food. As bizarre as it sounds, the idea of a ‘five second rule’ has been reverberating for some time as the supposedly safe amount of time for you to pick up food from the floor and continue eating it. To some, the notion of eating off the floor is simply too disgusting – while others see absolutely no problem with dusting off the odd potato chip if it lands on the lounge carpet. Scientists, however, have been investigating such crucial matters, and it’s time for those of us who can’t bear floor pick-ups to start saying “I told you so”.
According to data pooled by a study undertaken at Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, it takes just one second for bacteria to swarm in on any food that may have been dropped onto the floor – meaning that anyone taking a chance on the odd piece of candy or fruit could well be taking a bigger risk than they think, unless of course they are the Usain Bolt of floor pick-up. Researchers tested gummies, bread, butter and watermelon on carpet, tiles, wood and stainless steel to observe exactly how long it took bacteria to home in on various foodstuffs – specifically, Enterobacter aerogenes – and the results were fairly unanimous. This should be good news for anyone more than a little conscious of germs – but then again, perhaps not, as it means that they may have to be extra vigilant in future!
The five second rule has been around for a long time and while the study will be unlikely to persuade people who have been picking up and eating for years, it is interesting that an answer has finally been found as to how quickly bacteria will take to dropped food. With other studies claiming, however, that the risk of illness from such a spread is unlikely, the debate may well rage on for considerable time yet. It’s likely you have your own unwritten rule, and while this study’s results may have shaped how you consider dropped food going forward, it’s safe to say that keeping your food on your plate as much as you can may be the safest option – or at least the one with the least headaches!