'Five-second rule' is not purely a myth says researcher
In folklore, the five-second rule states that food dropped on the ground will not be significantly contaminated with bacteriaif it is picked up within five seconds of being dropped, now a new research suggests this urban myth may actually hold scientific fact, even if was previously debunked by the Mythbusters, who found that bacteria can be transferred to food in as little as two seconds.
To see whether the five second theory holds some truth, final-year biology students led by Prof. Anthony Hilton of Aston University in the UK, decided to test it.
In their study, the students monitored the transfer of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus from food - toast, pasta, cookie, and sticky candy - and different floor types to see how much bacteria the food attracted when allowed contact with the floor.
They allowed the food to lie on various types of flooring – carpet, laminate, and tiles – for 3 seconds to 30 seconds.
Not surprisingly, the longer the food was allowed in contact with the floor, the more bacteria it accumulated, and the moister the food, the more bacteria it picked up.
The surfaces also differed in how likely they were to transfer the bacteria, with carpeting being the least likely, and tiled surfaces and laminate the most likely.
“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,” said Hilton in a news release.
But Hilton did warn, “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.”
As part of the study, the team also found that of the people they polled, 87% of people consumed fallen foods, and 81% followed the five-second rule. A slight majority of the people who said they would eat dropped food were women (55%).
“Our study showed that a surprisingly 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’ tale,” he also added.
Our take on this latest experiment?
The safest rule is any food that lands on the floor should go straight into the trash bin.