Dropping food on carpet is better from a germ avoidance standpoint than dropping it on tile or linoleum.
Since the discovery of germs, there has been a belief among children and adult alike known as the “5-second rule” which states that if you pick up a dropped food within five seconds, it did not have time to pick up any harmful germs and is thus still safe to eat.
Thanks to science, and the inquiring minds at Aston University in Birmingham, England, it turns out that rule is scientifically correct.
Researchers at Aston University’s School of Life and Health Science have concluded that the 5-second rule has some validity.
“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 Aston microbiology professor Anthony Hilton to Science Daily. “However, the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have ben employing the 5-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,’’ he said.
Food dropped outdoors is an entirely different matter.
The study was conducted by final year biology students at Aston. Food was dropped onto different indoor flooring materials and left to sit for between three to 30 seconds and then studied for bacterial inclusion.
While carpeting was determined to be least likely to transfer, laminated or tiled flooring was more likely to transfer bacterial and moist foods were most likely to pick up germs. For dry foods, 30 seconds was still a safe amount of time to reclaim and eat the item.
The study also revealed 87 percent of people surveyed would eat food dropped on the floor, but only 55 percent of women would do so. Among the women who said they would eat dropped food, they would only do so using the 5-second rule.
Not everyone agrees with the findings. Eric Schulze, a molecular biologist with the Smithsonian, said “no floor surface is guaranteed to be a safe bet. Eating food off the floor is a bit like playing Russian roulette with your gut.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.