We have all heard of the 5 second rule, which basically states that after you drop a piece of food on the ground, you have five seconds to pick it up, and it will still be safe to eat because germs/bacteria have not gotten to it yet. But is this well-known myth true?
According to the findings of a research done by Aston University’s school of life and health sciences, food that is picked up off the ground shortly (a few seconds after being dropped) is less likely to have been infested with bacteria, compared to if it is left on the ground for a longer period of time. To test this rule, some biology students at Aston University conducted an experiment where they observed the transfer of two well-known bacterium, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, from a number of different types of indoor flooring to foods such as toast, pasta, biscuits and a sticky sweet when contact to the floor was made from 3 to 30 seconds. Time played a big role in the transfer of bacteria from the floor to the pieces of food and the type of floor that the food was dropped on also had an effect. They came up with following results: bacteria were less likely to transfer from carpeted floors and more likely to transfer from wood or tiled floors to moist food that was on the floor for more than 5 seconds.
Anthony Hilton, professor of microbiology at Aston University, said “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; however the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth. We have found evidence that transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor with carpet actually posing the lowest risk of bacterial transfer onto dropped food”. The biology students went further to conduct a survey on the number of people who actually go by the 5 second rule. The results showed that 87% of people would still eat food dropped on the floor, 55% of those people being women, and 81% of those women follow the 5 second rule. The professor also stated, “Our study showed surprisingly that a large majority of people are happy to consume dropped food, with women the most likely to do so. But they are also more likely to follow the 5 second rule, which our research has shown to be much more than an old wives tail”.
It is safe to say that the 5 second myth is accurate, although not completely sanitary, but as studies have shown, it is in fact true that bacteria is less likely to reach your food if it has been on the floor for no more than about 5 seconds. In conclusion, we can all go back to the same old excuse we give ourselves just to continue eating our food.