When you drop a piece of food on the floor, is it really okay to eat it again after picking it up within five seconds?
They say that dirt and germs couldn't contaminate your food in just a few seconds. Though the "five-second-rule" might not that be that serious, researchers still think it's worth investigating.
So, is it really okay to eat it after being dropped on the floor (or anywhere)?
It is said that a story about Julia Child may have contributed to this food myth after viewers of her cooking show, The French Chef, insist they saw Child drop lamb (or whatever meat is depending on the version of the tale) on the floor and puck it up, with the advice that if they were alone in the kitchen, their guests would never know.
However, the true story is that it was a potato cake, and it fell on the stove top, NOT THE FLOOR. Child put it back in the pan, saying "But you can always pick it up and if you are alone in the kitchen, who is going to see?"
The earliest research report on the five-second rule is attributed to Jillian Clarke, a high school student participating in a research apprenticeship at the University of Illinois. Clarke and her colleagues inoculated the floor tiles with bacteria then placed food on the tiles for varying times.
They reported that bacteria were transferred from the tile to gummy bears and cookies within five seconds, but didn't report the specific amount of bacteria that made it from the tile to the food.
In 2007, Clemson University published a study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. They inoculated squares of tile, carpet or wood with Salmonela and five minutes after that, they placed either bologna or bread on the surface for five, 30 or 60 seconds, then measured the amount of bacteria transferred to the food. The process was repeated for two, four, eight and 24 hours.
As a result, they found out that the amount of bacteria transferred didn't depend on how long the food was in contact with the contaminated surface. However, the amount of the bacteria on the surface matter more, and this decreased over time after the initial inoculation. And so in conclusion, it looks like what's at issue is less how long your food languishes on the floor and much more how infested with bacteria that patch of floor happens to be.
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